MINA, Saudi Arabia (AP) - Muslims around the world held Eid al-Adha celebrations Tuesday, slaughtering sheep and other livestock to give meat to the poor in the biggest holiday of the Islamic calendar.
In Saudi Arabia, some 2 million Muslims on the annual hajj pilgrimage performed a rite throwing pebbles at a series of walls representing Satan in a symbolic gesture of stoning the devil, rejecting sin and temptation. Afterward, they shaved their heads - or cut off a lock of hair - to show the renewal of their faith and the purification of their souls.
The rites kicked off the festivities of Eid al-Adha - or "festival of sacrifice" - for Muslims around the world. The holiday commemorates the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim - or Abraham, as he is known in the Bible - to sacrifice his son in accordance with God's will, though in the end God provides him a sheep to sacrifice instead.
Muslim communities across the Arab world, Asia and Africa, Europe and the U.S. marked the holiday Tuesday. The faithful slaughtered sheep, cattle and other livestock.
They give part of the meat to the poor and usually tuck into a lavish family dinner with the rest. The holiday, lasting three or four days, is an occasion for family celebrations and outings, with parents often buying new clothes for their children.
The hajj pilgrims will repeat the stoning ritual in the desert valley of Mina for two or three more days, then complete their pilgrimage in the nearby city of Mecca, circling the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure believed to have been built first by Adam then again by Ibrahim to mirror the house of God in Heaven.
The Kaaba is Islam's holiest site, and Muslims around the world face it in their daily prayers.