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May 15, 2011

Question: How does your faith celebrate the changing seasons?

 Unlike more ancient calendars, the Bahá’í calendar generally has no special months or days that celebrate the changing seasons. The most notable exception  would be its celebration of the New Year, usually called by its Persian name, Naw Ruz (New Day). Naw Ruz occurs at the vernal equinox, which is usually March 21st, the first day of spring, depending on the time of the equinox, i.e. when the sun passes into the constellation of Aries.

Naw Ruz is the first day of spring in the ancient Zoroastrian solar calendar, a religion founded by the prophet Zoroaster, a faith that also originates in Iran. The ancient Zoroastrian ritual, having been celebrated for several thousand years, is celebrated to this day as New Year in Iran and all the neighbouring countries in the Iranian plateau, even though the majority of the population in these countries are  Muslims.  

The Bahá’í calendar begins on May 23, 1844, with the declaration of the Báb (1819-1850), the herald and forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), the Prophet-Founder of this youngest of the world’s religions. The Báb created a solar calendar consisting of 19 months of 19 days, with each month being named after one of the attributes of God (glory, beauty, grandeur, perfection, etc). The worship service for each month is called “The Nineteen Day Feast” because it is celebrated once every 19 days. The 361 days are completed by 4 “Intercalary Days”—5 days on leap year—to make 365.

To celebrate the Bahá’í new year, the Báb adopted the ancient Iranian spring festival. The calendar was sanctioned but modified by Bahá’u’lláh. He also retained March 21st as the first day of the new year, which has equal hours of daylight and darkness in the northern hemisphere.

In  spring, the world experiences a regeneration of life. Bahá’ís view their new year’s day as a manifestation of the quickening of spiritual life, the “divine springtime” as  Bahá’u’lláh called it, which symbolizes the coming of a new Manifestation of God. The community looks forward to the coming year with hope and enthusiasm. We are currently in the year 168 of the Bahá’í Era. - Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen May 15, 2011
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