Monday, February 25th, 2013
Ayyam-i-Ha: February 26-March 1
Ayyam-i-Ha (also called Intercalary Days) is a period of hospitality, charity and gift-giving for Baha’is that is celebrated from February 26 to March 1. This is a festive time where people give gifts–mainly to children, have parties and focus on charity. Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith, said of Ayyam-i-Ha, “It behoveth the people of Baha, 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 Baha’i calendar is a solar calendar (365 days in a year, 366 in leap years) consisting of nineteen months, each containing nineteen days. This leaves four days (five in leap years) that do not belong to any month and thus are “intercalary” (literally, “inserted”) days.
Ayyam-i-Ha prepares Baha’is for the fast, which begins March 2 and ends March 20. Like Muslims during Ramadan, Baha’is refrain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, obligatory for all who are healthy and not traveling, with exemptions for pregnant and nursing mothers and those who are over 70. Fasting is a form of self-discipline and the fast is a time of prayer and meditation, during which Baha’is detach themselves from the things of this world and draw closer to God. Fasting reminds Baha’is of those who are poor and lack food, in order to be more compassionate and encourage charity. Bahai’s fast for 19 days (unlike Ramadan which is 30 days) and there is no obligation to make-up missed days of fasting as in Islam.
There are no prescribed ways of celebrating Ayyam-i-Ha. Baha’is have sought to avoid specific rituals that are not mandated in their scriptures and they have resisted commercializing their holidays. Baha’i families invent their own beautiful traditions each year for the four days of the celebration.
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