Harare Bahá’ís celebrate Naw-Ruz 179 Bahá’í Era
Flora Teckie Correspondent
The Bahá’í New Year festival known as Naw-Ruz was celebrated globally on March 21.
The celebrations in Harare were typical of the kind of multi-cultural celebrations that were observed in many of the 116,000 localities where Bahá’ís – who embrace human diversity – reside around the world.
The Bahá’í Faith has a new calendar – based on the solar year.
The year is divided into 19 months of 19 days each month. Four intercalary days are added (and in the leap years a fifth day) to make up the year.
The months are named after some of the attributes of God such as might, grandeur and glory. The Bahá’í calendar dates its years from 1844, which marks the beginning of the Bahá’í Era. This year is 179 B.E. (Bahá’í Era). Naw-Ruz is the first day of the first of 19 months in the Bahá’í calendar.
The Bahá’í New Year coincides with the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, the vernal equinox.
Spring is the time of freshness and renewal in nature. It is also symbolic of the coming of the spiritual spring. It serves as a reminder of the oneness of all the Manifestations of God, and the spiritual springtime they each brought to humanity.
In this regard, the Bahá’í Writings state: “At the time of the vernal equinox in the material world a wonderful vibrant energy and new life-quickening is observed everywhere in the vegetable kingdom; the animal and human kingdoms are resuscitated and move forward with a new impulse.
“The whole world is born anew, resurrected. Gentle zephyrs are set in motion, wafting and fragrant; flowers bloom; the trees are in blossom, the air temperate and delightful; how pleasant and beautiful become the mountains, fields and meadows.
“Likewise, the spiritual bounty and springtime of God quicken the world of humanity with a new animus and vivification. All the virtues which have been deposited and potential in human hearts are being revealed from that Reality as flowers and blossoms from divine gardens. It is a day of joy, a time of happiness, a period of spiritual growth”.
Naw-Rúz festival comes at the end of a 19-day fast in which Baha’is abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset as a reminder of the need for individuals to be detached from their material desires.
Fasting period is “a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation”. The “material fast”, as Bahá’ís view it, “is an outer token of the spiritual fast; it is a symbol of self-restraint, the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God”.
A new year is a time for joy and celebration. It is also the time to reflect on how to transform our personal lives and contribute to the transformation of our communities.
Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, states that: “the purpose for which mortal men have, from utter nothingness, stepped into the realm of being, is that they may work for the betterment of the world and live together in concord and harmony”.
An important concept in the Bahá’í teachings is that refinement of one’s inner character and service to humanity should go hand in hand.
For example, it is not enough to pray and reflect daily in our own personal lives, but also to make an effort to bring a devotional spirit to our surroundings.
It is not enough to deepen only our own knowledge of the faith, but also to share this knowledge with others. Bahá’u’lláh regards the ‘love of mankind’ and service to its interests as the worthiest and most laudable objects of human endeavour”.
At the present time the Bahá’ís of Zimbabwe, as well as the Bahá’ís in every other country are engaged on a path of action that promotes the spiritual development of the individual and channels the collective energies of its members towards the spiritual transformation of society.
These activities include the systematic study of the Baha’i writings in small groups in order to build capacity for service; devotional gatherings which are aimed at connecting the hearts of the people with their Creator; neighbourhood children’s classes that offer lessons aimed at laying the foundations of a noble and upright character; and groups that strive to assist young teens to navigate a crucial stage of their lives and become empowered to direct their energies toward the advancement of civilization.
The Bahá’í community is one of learning and action, free from any sense of superiority or claim to exclusive understanding of truth.
It is a community that strives to cultivate hope for the future of humanity, to foster purposeful effort, and to celebrate the endeavours of all those in the world who work to promote unity and alleviate human suffering.
Bahá’u’lláh wrote: “That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race”.