SUNSET MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25: The gift-giving season may be over for most of the world, but Baha’is enter their season tonight, with Ayyam-i-Ha, or Intercalary Days. Setting the stage for the approaching Nineteen-Day Fast and New Year, Baha’is spend the Intercalary Days exchanging gifts, volunteering and donating to charities. (Get an insider’s perspective at Bahai.us.)
Why is this custom so important in religious tradition? For traditions based on lunar or religious cycles, the addition of extra days prevents the religious seasons from rotating through the secular calendar. Jewish tradition, for example, has a system for occasionally adding a month to balance the religious calendar; thus, Jewish holidays and festivals generally remain in the same seasons. However, in the Muslim calendar, extra days are not added and festival periods like Ramadan move through the entire secular year.
When the Baha’i calendar was established more than 150 years ago, it was comprised of 19 months of 19 days each—each month named after an attribute of God. Intercalary Days celebrate the “in-between time”—the days between the 18th and 19th months that are considered “outside of the calendar.”
During Ayyam-i-Ha, devotees revel in the transcendence of God over his attributes. (Wikipedia has details.) Also called the Days of Ha, “Ha” translates from Arabic as “the essence of God,” and the out-of-calendar days mark the eternal nature of the divine. In this period, Baha’is celebrate God’s oneness by displaying love, camaraderie and unity. (Access a prayer here.)
The Days of Ha cease when the Nineteen-Day Fast begins, on March 2 (beginning at sunset March 1). Naw-Ruz arrives with the first day of spring on March 21.
How do the faithful mark the Days of Ha? No single set of instructions exists on how to mark this season, and Baha’i celebrations vary widely. Still, gift-giving is common, and many adherents attempt to make—rather than buy—personalized gifts. Looking for more ideas? Try researching game ideas for parties with family and friends, fashioning decorations with candles and flowers or baking cookies in the shape of the nine-pointed stars. (Get more ideas from a Baha’i blog.)
CHILEAN HOUSE OF WORSHIP SET TO SERVICE CONTINENT
A new video has been released on the progress of construction for the Baha’i House of Worship in Chile, a project that began in November 2010 and continues to grow. Viewers can check out the Santiago project’s basement, service tunnel and isolators, all of which can be viewed on the website. Upon completion, the Chilean House of Worship will be the last erected to service an entire continent and the eighth in this series of Baha’i houses of worship.