There are two major Eid festivals celebrated by Muslims each year, with Eid ul-Adha considered the holy grail of the pair.
The first of them, Eid ul-Fitr, comes at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, falling on Monday 2 May this year – and Eid ul-Adha is rapidly approaching.
Because Eid’s position is based on the lunar cycle, in the more commonly used Gregorian calendar the date shifts from year to year, moving forward around 11 days – here’s how the sighting of the moon dictates it.
When is the Eid ul-Adha moon sighting?
Eid ul-Adha falls on the tenth day of Dhul-Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic Hijri calendar.
The nature of the Hijri means that it’s not possible to predict its date exactly – however, observers at least get a fair bit more warning than with Eid ul-Fitr, when the festival falls right at the start of the month.
According to Saudi Arabia, whose official verdict is followed by many Muslims across the world, Dhul-Hijjah began on Thursday 30 June, following the sighting of the crescent moon on Wednesday 29 June.
This means that the Eid ul-Adha festival will begin on the evening of Saturday 9 July and last four days, coming to an end on the evening of Wednesday 13 July.
There is some debate as to whether the idea of a moon sighting should refer to you physically witnessing the moon in your region, which could be hampered by factors such as weather conditions, or whether to defer to sightings in Saudi Arabia or other regions.
Some people argue that technological advancements in astronomy mean that the rising of the new moon can be calculated with unprecedented accuracy, meaning that a standardized start date can be used for all Muslims around the world, rather than having variations.
Eid ul-Adha falls around the same time as the Hajj pilgrimage to the Kabba in Mecca, one of the most sacred traditions of Islam.
What is the meaning behind Eid ul-Adha?
Known as the “Festival of the Sacrifice” or colloquially as “Big Eid”, Eid ul-Adha is considered the holier of the two Islamic Eid festivals.
It honors the famous story of the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (known in the Christian Old Testament as Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God’s command.
However, before Ibrahim carried out the heartbreaking request, God, known as Allah in Islam, produced a lamb for him to sacrifice instead.
To commemorate this, an animal is traditionally sacrificed and divided into three parts in an act known as Qurbani. One part of the sheep is given to the poor, one to the immediate family at home and one is reserved for relatives.
Some Muslims may give money to charity to give poorer families the chance to have a proper Eid feast, while mosques and community groups will often arrange communal meals.
They also chant the Takbir, which is the Arabic phrase “Allāhu akbar”, or “God is great”, before and after Eid prayers.
Observers will greet each other using the celebratory phrase “Eid Mubarak,” and traditionally exchange gifts and share food with friends and family.
The Arabic word “mubarak” translates as “blessed,” while “Eid” means feast, festival or celebration, so “Eid Mubarak” can literally mean “blessed celebration” or “blessed feast”, although it is widely interpreted as simply wishing somebody a “happy Eid”.