In the United Kingdom there has been much talk this year of replacing “Christmas” with a winter festival, to be politically correct in a multi-faith society. Virtually all the talk has come from local authorities and non-religious organisations rather than religious groups themselves, but the media have run several stories implying that it is the non-Christian Faiths who are to blame for this revolt against Christmas, particularly Muslims.
For most in the UK, Christmas is hardly seen as a major religious festival. In recent years our favourite Christmas songs have included “2 become 1” by the Spice Girls, and children’s classic “Bob the Builder”. Our TV schedules offer just one hour of religious programming in the morning, on the two most popular channels, before launching into a schedule of popular recent films and innuendo-packed comedies.
Muslims believe in Jesus Christ, as do the Baha’is, and in addition to any feeling that they should honour the traditions of the country in which they live, which often seem to be Christian almost exclusively by name alone, most followers of Islam and the Baha’i Faith would probably prefer this nation to take a more religious approach to remembering the birth of Jesus Christ. Anything that promotes a non-fanatical interest in religion is good for followers of other Faiths as it nudges open a door to a more informed discussion of differing beliefs, rather than debates grown out of fear or prejudice.
As a non-Christian born in England, I certainly don’t have any objections to this Christian country celebrating Christmas. I tend to spare a little time on Christmas day to think about the Christian history that the day is supposed to celebrate, before generally enjoying stuffing myself with nice food and watching a mediocre movie that I might switch to another programme if I didn’t feel so weighed down by food in my chair.
The Birth of Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, is celebrated by Baha’is on November 12th each year, but our biggest festivals are our new year on March 21st and a pre-fasting “Intercalary” period at the end of February called Ayyam-i-Ha.
As for a Baha’i perscpective on Christmas, Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Writings affirm the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, stating that Christ found existence through the Spirit of God. Among the many Baha’i Writings which extol the station of Jesus Christ is the following from Baha’u’llah:
“Know thou that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its evidences, as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee. The deepest wisdom which the sages have uttered, the profoundest learning which any mind hath unfolded, the arts which the ablest hands have produced, the influence exerted by the most potent of rulers, are but manifestations of the quickening power released by His transcendent, His all-pervasive, and resplendent Spirit.
“We testify that when He came into the world, He shed the splendour of His glory upon all created things. Through Him the leper recovered from the leprosy of perversity and ignorance. Through Him, the unchaste and wayward were healed. Through His power, born of Almighty God, the eyes of the blind were opened, and the soul of the sinner sanctified.
“Leprosy may be interpreted as any veil that interveneth between man and the recognition of the Lord, his God. Whoso alloweth himself to be shut out from Him is indeed a leper, who shall not be remembered in the Kingdom of God, the Mighty, the All-Praised. We bear witness that through the power of the Word of God every leper was cleansed, every sickness was healed, every human infirmity was banished. He it is Who purified the world. Blessed is the man who, with a face beaming with light, hath turned towards Him.”