The Baha’i gardens in Haifa. Photo by xiquinhosilva, courtesy of Flickr
- SUNSET THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25: Baha’is begin a period of special days to correct their annual calendar.
- SUNSET TUESDAY, MARCH 1: Baha’is begin the 19-day month of Ala, which is a special fasting month in preparation for the Baha’i New year.
AYYAM-I-HA (DAYS OF HA)
Sacred days “outside of time” begin for members of the Baha’i faith, as the Festival of Ayyam-i-Ha, or Intercalary Days, commences. Until sunset on March 1, Baha’is mark a break in their 19-month calendar: the “extra days” are used to bring awareness to God’s oneness, along with a focus on charity and unity.
Ayyam-i-Ha—literally, the Days of Ha—plays on a double meaning of “Ha”: Ha, the first letter of an Arabic pronoun commonly used to refer to God, is used as a symbol of the essence of God in Baha’i writings; the Arabic abjad system designates the letter Ha as having a numerical value of five, which has always been the maximum number of days allowed for the period of Ayyam-i-Ha.
Baha’u’llah designated that Ayyam-i-Ha should be filled with “good cheer” and “joy and exultation”—for Baha’is, their kindred and recipients of the Baha’is’ charity.
News! Because 2016 is a Leap Year, Ayyam-i-Ha incorporates the extra day, prior to the start of the Nineteen-Day Fast and the month of Ala.
When the Bab began creating a calendar for the new Babi religion in the 1840s, intercalation—which is not practiced in Islam—was implemented to differentiate it from the existing Islamic calendar. When the Bab did not specify where the Intercalary Days should be inserted, Baha’u’llah—the one foretold of by the Bab—designated that they should be placed before the fasting month of Ala. Today, Baha’is still observe the Nineteen-Day Fast throughout the entire month of Ala. A New Year begins the day after Ala ends.