In some ways, the celebration of Eid Ul Fitr is easier to explain to non-Muslims; it marks the end of month-long fasting for Ramadan. Eid Ul Adha (or "big" Eid) often catches me unawares as it's usually during term-time. I often have to remind myself and others of the historical significance of the second Eid. I always make an effort to fast every year on the day before Eid, on the 9th of Dhul Hijjah, which is dubbed the Day of Arafah, as Pilgrims on Hajj descend on the plain of Arafat.
The significance of the Plain of Arafat is that it was the place in which the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) delivered his notable last sermon. During the day, Hajj Pilgrims offer sincere supplication and ask for God's forgiveness. The Plain of Arafat is also the site where all of humanity will be resurrected and questioned on the day of judgement.
This Eid also embodies the theme of sacrifice; how Prophet Ibrahim was prepared to sacrifice his son for the sake of Allah, which is why animals are slaughtered and the meat is shared during the Eid celebrations. The Prophet showed strength in fighting off the whisperings of the Devil, which is why Pilgrims throw stones at pillars. Another message from the historical significance of this Eid is to put your wholehearted faith in and trust that God will provide for you, even if it appears that you are destitute, you are not alone as God is always there for you when your mortal counterparts might let you down.
The fast on the Day of Arafah today was much more difficult that I thought, but Alhamdulillah, it was manageable. The fast itself embodied a personal sacrifice; forgoing food and drink for the sake of God's pleasure and mercy. It is said that fasting on this day means that previous and future annual sins are forgiven, and I pray that all those who fasted today's sins are forgiven.
I was always taught that this Eid was not about giving presents or money; but more about reflecting upon God's mercy, and thinking about the historical importance of what we are truly celebrating. It's about celebrating the end of Hajj, where millions of Muslims from all different ethnicites unite. Eid should also be a time for us to remember those less fortunate than us in countries all over the world, those suffering and those facing injustice. We should also pray that God invites us to Hajj when it is our time.
Whatever you are doing tomorrow, have a great Eid: Eid Mubarak!