Baha’is throughout Canada are inviting their friends and neighbours to festive community celebrations on March 20. For Baha’is, this is New Years Day and a holy day on which work is suspended.
The observance of holy days occupies a central place in every religion. Practically every day of the year has, at some point in history, been proclaimed as a holy day for one—and often several—of Canada’s diverse religious communities.
In many cases, the holy days mark the signal events associated with the life and ministry of the spiritual educators of humanity who founded world religions. This remembrance has both a personal dimension, providing a time for reflection on the significance of these events, and a social dimension, helping to deepen the identity and foster the cohesion of the community. Often, these days are holidays as well as holy days.
The Baha’i Faith is no exception. Each year, Baha’is throughout Canada and around the world observe nine holy days, most of which mark major events in the life of its founders, Baha’u’llah and the Bab.
Other religions also consider New Years Day as a holy day—but not every faith sees January 1 as the start of the year. For the Baha’is, the New Year—or Naw Ruz—is celebrated on the first day of spring. Where possible, Baha’is will take this day off of work or school and join in festive community celebrations, which are generally open to all.
Another reason Baha’is cherish Naw Ruz is that it marks the end of their annual 19-day Fast which serves to elevate the soul and refresh the spirit in anticipation of the coming year. During the Fast adults refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset and give special attention to prayer and the renewal of their spirit of faith.
For Baha’is, March 20 will be the start of the year 174, since year 1 of the Baha’i calendar corresponds to the year of its inception, 1844. This year’s Naw Ruz will be particularly significant because 174 is also the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Founder of the Faith, Baha’u’llah. Baha’is will mark that holy day on October 22.
Baha’u’llah’s teachings encourage renewal and revitalization; former laws are abrogated and the manners and customs of previous dispensations are reformed. In addition to bringing a new calendar, Baha’u’llah called for the elimination of all forms of prejudice between people, including religious prejudice. In one of his writings, for example, He stated:
Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship. Whatsoever hath led the children of men to shun one another, and hath caused dissensions and divisions amongst them, hath, through the revelation of these words, been nullified and abolished.
With this in mind, Baha’is invite friends of all backgrounds to their holy day celebrations. This holy day, in particular, is light-hearted and often associated with music, feasting, and dancing, as well as prayer.
During the past year, the Universal House of Justice, the governing council of the world-wide Baha’i community, released a book of newly translated writings of Baha’u’llah for Baha’i Holy Days, including Naw Ruz. Days of Remembrance is available as a free e-book from the international Baha’i website at www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/days-remembrance/.