A Life Overseas – Sacrifice, Sheep, and Raising Kids Cross-Culturally


It’s Saturday and we have a house full of college kids and young adults. Pumpkin croissants, courtesy of Trader Joe’s, are baking in a 350 degree oven, taking the chill off this fall morning. I’m awake early, grateful and full.

I wrote this post for A Life Overseas–retooling an older, shorter piece I had written a couple of years ago. Would love to have you take a look and tell your stories of connecting across the cross-cultural divide.

Beginning Monday evening through all day Tuesday, Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid al Adha – the feast of sacrifice.

Eid al Adha is the second of two feasts that occur after Ramadan. This feast is the biggest and most important holiday of the Muslim year and concludes the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and one of the five pillars of Islam. It is considered the ‘Greater Eid’.

Significant to Eid al Adha is the sacrifice of an animal. A goat, sheep, camel and sometimes even a cow, is sacrificed and cooked to perfection, a feast for family and friends.

Thinking about Eid al Adha takes me back to both my childhood in Pakistan and to raising children in the Middle East. My mind returns to a walk-up apartment, a dark stair-well, and a bleating sheep.

Every year as Eid al Adha came around our neighbors purchased a sheep and, in the absence of green space, the sheep made its home in our stairwell. At the time we had no household pet and our children bonded with the sheep, delighted with the plaintive brown eyes and the friendly “baa” that greeted us every time we came and went from our apartment.  This was ‘their’ pet. All the while my husband and I knew that this sheep had a preordained purpose – to be fattened in anticipation of the Feast of Sacrifice. The leftover vegetables on our stairwell were indicative that this would be one fat sheep to slaughter.

And so the day would inevitably arrive. The stairwell was silent as our children trooped downstairs.“Where’s the sheep? What happened to the sheep?” 

Read the rest here! 

Whether you’re in Pakistan or Brazil, Cambodia or Istanbul, Cairo or Chicago, Rochester or Kansas– May you have time for tea and reflection today. And as I’ve said before and will continue to say as long as I’m blogging–Thanks so much for reading. I never take it for granted.

6 thoughts on “A Life Overseas – Sacrifice, Sheep, and Raising Kids Cross-Culturally

  1. All I have to do is to close my eyes and I can hear the woeful bleating of the lambs nearby our various homes in Pakistan on “the night before Eid.” Thanks.


  2. Marilyn, I can totally picture you and Cliff telling your wide-eyed children about what has happened to the stairwell-sheep. And yet again, the right answer is the truth! You are so good to reassure us adults that children can accept and learn that “the world is bigger” than they are. I am so glad your children had you two as parents! I am so glad you have a house full of young adults — another wonderful image! I’ll be your person in Cambodia, having [coffee] and reflecting. (-: So enjoy reading you here!


    1. I’m soooo glad you read – that was there for you. I don’t know how often you’re able to read but today I was thinking of you as I sat there. Will send you a separate email but miss you and love you! Thank you for these words.


  3. Love, love, love to your college students. Wish I could drop in. Instead I will remember to pick up some of those pumpkin scones from TJ’s and think of you when we eat them.
    And thank you for this post, and for the nice things you write about your parents. I often felt inadequate, falling short of living and communicating those important concepts. You encourage me when I read this and realize that more was sinking in than I thought!


  4. We lived for the better part of 10 years in Malaysia and a handful in Indonesia and Brunei so I thought I knew about Islam and the practices but when I moved to Cairo I was surprised to learn that Eid Al Adha was the greater Eid there. In Asia, Eid Al Fitr is more celebrated, coming after the month of fasting. Simon and I were just discussing this disparity at the dinner table last night. Heading over to read the rest of your post and not envying you that conversation about the sheep!

    I am envying your household full of college students and young adults.


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