Bahai Gardens in Haifa.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The five million adherents of the Bahai faith across the globe celebrate their New Year, or Nowruz, Wednesday, the first day of spring, which takes place every year on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox.
Nowruz, which means new day in Farsi, also marks the end of the 19-day period of sunrise to sunset fasting which followers of Bahai observe.
“The Nowruz celebrations express the Bahai principle of unity through the beauty of variety,” said Jalal Hatami, deputy secretary-general of the World Bahai Community. “On the eve of Nowruz, Bahais celebrate across the world, and coming after the fast, the New Year celebrations encompass spiritual reflection for renewal, symbolized by the spring, in which Bahais prepare to better themselves and renew their commitment to their faith,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
Nowruz is also the name for the traditional Iranian New Year, also celebrated at the vernal equinox, which was originally a Zoroastrian festival.
To celebrate the festival, The Bahai World Center in Israel held its traditional New Year’s reception on Tuesday night in Jerusalem, with hundreds of dignitaries, diplomats, MKs and assorted government officials in attendance.
Another reception will be held on Friday in Acre, the final resting place of the Bahai founder Mirza Husayn-Ali, or Baha’ullah as he became known. The Shrine of Baha’ullah, where he was buried in 1892, is the holiest site in the world for Bahais and is located just outside the city.
The Bahai Faith employs a solar calendar of 365 days but divides the year into 19 months, which are themselves divided into 19 days.
According to Hatami there are 650 Bahais in Israel, living in Haifa and Acre as temporary residents, all of whom are involved in the running of the Bahai institutions in those cities. Baha’ullah issued a decree before he died that the religion not be preached in the Holy Land.
The Bahai religion was founded in Iran in 1844, although adherents were persecuted for their beliefs considered to be heretical to Islam.
Baha’ullah was exiled from Iran and with his followers eventually reached Acre in 1868.