Ayyam-i-Ha is a Baha’i festival that is joyously celebrated in countries and territories all over the world. It is a time of hospitality, generosity, and caring for the needy. This year Ayyam-i-Ha runs from February 26-29.
The Baha’i Fast falls during the month of Ala–the last month of the Baha’i calendar. During these 19 days, Baha’is abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset. While this abstention from food and drink is a test of one’s will and discipline, the Fast is not just about abstaining from food. The Fast is, primarily, a spiritual practice.
Monthly Reflection: Baha (Splendour) – On Fasting, Transformation & the Season of Light
I am writing this in my dimly lit kitchen as I reflect on the significance of the upcoming month of Baha or Splendour—the first month of the Baha’i year. Outside a steady blur of horizontally blown snow sails past my window. Splendour means to possess great light or luster, so it makes perfect sense to me that Baha’is across the world celebrate our new year (Naw-Ruz) on spring equinox in Tehran—the birthplace of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, and a place where hyacinths are already pressing their brilliant purple and pink heads up through the dark soil.
Baha’is follow the Badi solar calendar, which means that the entire year unfolds from the point where daylight and darkness are perfectly in balance. Naw-Ruz brings to a close the final month of the Baha’i year and the Baha’i Fast. For me the period of fasting is a time to slow down and turn inward; to reflect on how I’ve lived my life over the previous year and to pray for guidance, inspiration, courage, healing and strength as I gather my resources and prepare for what lies ahead.
We do not have any rituals in the Baha’i Faith, but during the Fast I like to create an environment that is meditative and peaceful in my home. I rise before sunrise to eat my breakfast, offer prayers and read from the Baha’i Writings at the kitchen table by candlelight. I often set a vase overflowing with tulips on the table so that I have a physical manifestation of the promise of spring and the possibility of growth and transformation to contemplate every day. The rigour of rising early and operating on an empty belly until sunset for 19 days means I have to be very intentional about what I eat before the sun rises and after it sets; how and when I do my work, because my brain capacity diminishes the further I get from my last meal; and even when I go to bed since I know that I will be up early the following day. The Fast is a time of finding balance and equilibrium for body and soul; a final expression of gratitude for the quiet darkness of winter before the exuberance of spring.
One way I’ve commemorated the Fast this year is by reciting the Tablet of Ahmad every morning as the sun is rising, so I was deeply moved by this wonderful video highlighting a portion of this blessed tablet which I memorized many years ago in Baha’i children’s class, and which has been particularly special to me ever since.
I pause my writing and take a short to walk to the end of my street to check the mailbox. The wind is bitterly cold, and snow crystals crunch beneath my feet. On my way back a little bird singing in the bare branches of a lilac bush catches my eye, and I slow to watch it. Up close a detail that was invisible from a distance becomes visible: despite the freezing temperature, the seemingly lifeless branches of the bush are covered in hundreds of tiny green buds—the plant is readying itself to blossom as soon as the conditions are right. As I slip along the icy sidewalk I think about the bush. How have I used the conditions of the Fast to set my own buds in preparation for a new year? Baha’u’llah tells us that He has “endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue.” With this in mind, the question I’m asking myself is: what can I do with every precious hour that is given to me to increase my soul’s capacity to better serve humanity this year? Join me?
Ariana Salvo was born in the United States, and spent sixteen years of her childhood on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. She moved to Prince Edward Island to do her master’s degree in Island Studies, fell in love with the tightly knit community, and has never left. When not writing, she can be found exploring art at galleries around the world, flower farming, traveling to remote islands, hiking and taking photos of the wild natural landscapes of Canada’s eastern shore, teaching English to international students and reading historical fiction with a good cup of tea.