Bahá’ís in more than 200 countries and territories are celebrating a four-day festival involving hospitality, gift giving, charity and social gatherings. The festival, which runs from the evening of 25 February until sunset on 1 March, serves as a spiritual preparation for a Holy Fast Period during the last month of the Bahá’í Year, which begins on March 2 and ends on March 20.
Night view of The Shrine of The Báb, on Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel
The Báb, the Prophet and Forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh [much as John the Baptist was to The Christ], the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, instituted the Badí Calendar in the Persian Bayán with 19 months of 19 days with a period of intercalary days to allow for the calendar to be solar. He did not, however, specify where the intercalary days should go. Bahá’u’lláh, Who announced Himself to be the One foretold by the Báb, confirmed and adopted the Badí Calendar in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, The Most Holy Book, His book of laws. He placed the intercalary days before the fasting month of `Alá’, the nineteenth and last month, and gave the intercalary days the name “Ayyám-i-Há” or “Days of Há”.
The nineteen months of the Bahá’í Calendar are named after the attributes of God. Ayyám-i-Há commemorates the transcendence of God over His attributes since its name “Há” has been used a symbol of the essence of God in the Bahá’í Holy Scriptures.
During the Festival of Ayyám-i-Há, Bahá’ís are encouraged to celebrate God and His oneness by showing love, fellowship and unity. In many instances Bahá’ís give and accept gifts to show forth the love, and it is a period of the year during which many Bahá’ís hold events which feature hospitality, food, festivities beginning within families and extending outwardly to as many souls as they can physically and materially manage.
Celebrations of Ayyám-i-Há, as the festival is called, take different forms in different locations as suits the taste and culture of the believers wherever they live in the world. At this time, then, since the Bahá’í Faith is acknowledged as the second most widespread of the world’s religions after Christianity, it follows that these festivities are being celebrated truly throughout almost the entire world in as many ways as there are cultures.
Of this period Bahá’u’lláh writes: “It behoveth the people of Bahá, throughout these days, to provide good cheer for themselves, their kindred and, beyond them, the poor and needy, and with joy and exultation to hail and glorify their Lord, to sing His praise and magnify His Name.”
During the Fast which follows, Bahá’ís abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset as a reminder of the need for individuals to control their material desires. It is seen as a time of meditation and prayer during which Bahá’ís refresh and reinvigorate themselves spiritually. There are exemptions from the Fast for the young and elderly, and for those who are pregnant, ill or who are engaging in heavy work. The fasting period ends with the joyous Naw-Rúz (New Year) Festival, which begins at sunset on March 20, the first day of spring at the Spring Equinox.
…Interior of the Bahá’í House of Worship, Wilmette, Illinois…