Special Dates in the Bahá’í Year

In this continuation of my Badí’ calendar introduction I give an outline of the special dates in the Bahá’í year. 

Previously we have looked at an Introduction, some calendar history, Naw-Ruz, the years, months, and days, and the Twin Birthdays.

CHANGING TIMES

In their letter dated 10th July 2014, to the Bahá’ís of the world, the Universal House of Justice also made some slight changes to the dates on which some other key dates on the calendar are observed, based on a review of relevant records and statements by Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and The Guardian. In some cases discrepancies exist in the historical records, and the Universal House of Justice hereby clarified the dates which the Bahá’ís of the world will use for our celebrations and commemorations.

Prior to this announcement, Bahá’í holy days were generally held on the approximate Gregorian calendar equivalent provided by Shoghi Effendi. In linking Naw-Rúz to the equinoxes and fixing the Badí’  calendar dates of the holy days, this announcement also meant that the Gregorian dates of Holy Days would vary in line with the Gregorian date of Naw-Rúz, for example, the first day of Ridván falls on April 21st when Naw-Rúz is on March 21st, but when Naw-Rúz is on March 20th the first day of Ridván is April 20th.

The status of the Badí’ calendar in the Bahá’í community at this time is that it is the official calendar system by which the dates of all the Bahá’í months and holy days are calculated, and its use is uniformly implemented throughout the world. However, Bahá’ís have not adopted the calendar as their primary calendar for planning or for referring to dates, for this we still use the international standard which is the Gregorian calendar, messages from the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’í world – for example – are dated with Gregorian calendar dates rather than Badí’ calendar dates.

EVERY NINETEEN DAYS

There is an interesting statement in that same 10th July 2014 letter which captured the imaginations of many Bahá’ís:

“The adoption of a new calendar in each dispensation is a symbol of the power of Divine Revelation to reshape human perception of material, social, and spiritual reality. Through it, sacred moments are distinguished, humanity’s place in time and space reimagined, and the rhythm of life recast.”

For now, the calendar distinguishes the sacred moments, and the main way in which the Badí’ calendar’s rhythm is implemented in the Bahá’í community is arguably through the institution of the Nineteen Day Feast.

My introductory posts about the calendar have not yet touched much on the significance that the Báb placed on particular groupings of months or days, but – in His revelation of the calendar – each grouping of 19 years, months, or days, is seen as a cycle that goes through several stages, I’m not going to elaborate on that right now but just as Naw-Rúz is associated with renewal at the start of each year, the start of each month was associated a similar rebirth of energy.

The Nineteen-Day Feast, implemented by Bahá’u’lláh, a monthly gathering of Bahá’ís in every city, town or village where they reside, brings about this renewal. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states that:

” If this feast be held in the proper fashion, the friends will, once in nineteen days, find themselves spiritually restored, and endued with a power that is not of this world.”

The Feast is an event rooted in hospitality, incorporating essential spiritual, administrative and social elements, providing a groundwork for unity at the base levels of community life.

Fixing the method by which the correct timing of Naw-Rúz is determined also fixed the occurrence of the first days of the month, on which these Feasts are observed.

All Feasts and Holy Days start at sunset, when the Bahá’í day starts.

THE FAST

‘Alá’, the last month of the year, is the Bahá’í month of fasting. Bahá’ís abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset for these nineteen days. The fast ends with the sunset at which Naw-Rúz begins, because the timing of Naw-Rúz is tied to the equinox, the timing of this month is based upon the Naw-Rúz that it precedes, its start is calculated counting backwards 19 days from Naw-Rúz. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh made provisions for the Fast to end early if Naw-Rúz started before the 19 days of fasting were concluded, with this implementation of the calendar there will never be an occasion when the Fast will have to end early.

A fridge full of refreshments for the Fast

AYYAM-I-HÁ

Previous calendar systems that had either more than one occasional intercalary day, or less than a whole, rare, intercalary month, have treated those extra days as being something awkward, or even as an unlucky period of time, even when the intercalary period lasted as long as 60 days. For Bahá’ís they are days of joy and giving, Bahá’u’lláh stated:

“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.”

The intercalary days start at the end of the 18th month after Naw-Rúz and end at the start of the 19th month, ‘Alá, the month of fasting (see above). The length of of this period is about 5 days but varies a little depending on the length of the year between each Naw-Rúz. (Number of intercalary days = year length – 361). These days are called Ayyam-i-Há, or the days of Há. I won’t go into the significance of the name in this post.

HOLY DAYS

There are 11 special observances in the Bahá’í year, including 9 Holy Days relating to the Twin Manifestations of the Faith, on which work is to be suspended, among which are 4 “Great Festivals”, two of them being the “Most Great Festivals”.

A list of these events, and their confirmed date on the Badí’ calendar, is given below. A table of Gregorian dates appears at the end of the post. Where times are given they are standard time, where daylight savings is in force the time should be adjusted accordingly. For example, 3 am becomes 4 am with daylight savings.

DAYS ON WHICH WORK SHOULD BE SUSPENDED

Naw-Rúz (1 Bahá) is already covered in detail in an earlier post, Naw-Rúz symbolises Bahá’u’lláh at the beginning of all things, on the Badí’ calendar it is the day of Bahá in the month of Bahá, it is the beginning of the physical springtime just as the appearance of Bahá’u’lláh signalled the start of a spiritual springtime

The Festival of Ridván is the first of the Most Great Festivals, celebrating the period in 1863 when Bahá’u’lláh revealed His Divine Station to his companions,  while they were camped in a garden on the outskirts of Baghdad prior to their continued exile from that city. Bahá’u’lláh named the garden Ridván, the name of its gardener, meaning Paradise. Three of the days of Ridván are designated as Holy Days, the first day (13 Jalál at about 3 pm), the ninth day (2 Jamál) and the twelfth day (5 Jamál)

The second of the most great festivals is the Declaration of the Báb (8 ‘Azamat), this celebrates the revelation of the Báb’s Station during a conversation with Mulla Husayn, which took place between about one hour after sunset and exactly 2 hours 11 minutes after sunset, thus this event is officially commemorated at “about 2 hours after sunset.”

The Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh is commemorated on 13 ‘Azamat, this event occurred, and is commemorated, at 3 am.

The Martyrdom of the Báb occurred at noon and is commemorated at that time on 17 Rahmat. The events surrounding this martyrdom were quite dramatic.

The Birth of the Báb and The Birth of Bahá’u’lláh are the other two great festivals on the Bahá’í calendar, celebrated on consecutive days as Twin Festivals, these move around within the months of Mashiyyat, ‘Ilm and Qudrat as explained in an earlier post.

REMEMBERING ‘ABDUL-BAHA AND THE COVENANT

The Day of the Covenant (4 Qawl) remembers an agreement that God will continue to provide us Guidance and we will continue to turn to God. When Bahá’ís wanted to celebrate ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s birthday, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá appointed a day to remember the Covenant and asked Bahá’ís to celebrate that instead.

The Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is commemorated at 1 am on 6 Qawl

Gregorian dates of special Bahá’í days, the Bahá’í day starts at the previous sunset.

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