In the northern hemisphere, a series of special events come at the end of winter and the beginning of spring for members of the Bahá’í Faith. The first in this sequence are the intercalary days. These days are needed to balance the days of the Bahá’í calendar, which has nineteen months of nineteen days each, with the orbit of the Earth. In some years there are four of these special days, other years there are five. They are days that do not belong to any of the months. At one time, the day now known as December 31 was an intercalary day on the Gregorian calendar, but as that calendar became more and more out of sync with the orbit of the Earth, it became a permanent part of December.
These intercalary days of the Bahá’í calendar come just before the month of fasting which ends the year for Bahá’ís. These days celebrate the end of the year, and the fast prepares and renews one for the new year. In Farsi, these days are called: Ayyám-i-Há, the “Days of Five,” referring to the five maximum days.
To celebrate the close of another year, these are festive days devoted to philanthropy and special events. To children, this means parties. And parties call for decorations. Since there is no Bahá’í culture or Bahá’í ethnicity, (world-wide, members of the Bahá’í Faith are also members of at least 1,200 various backgrounds), there are no standard or “traditional” ways to decorate one’s home for these special days. So there are also no limitations to what one can do.
“Christmas lights!” People will often exclaim when coming to my decorated home for the first time for such a party.
“Electricity has no religious beliefs,” I explain. “Neither do colored bits of glass. They are only Christmas lights because you think of them that way. They are actually, Electrical Decorations, and can be used at any time for any occasion. And, I chose to use them for Ayyám-i-Há.”
Some shake their heads, others just smile, and the party proceeds.
Other decorations that I may add for these parties are fake snowflakes, because it is still winter where I live, and we might have snow. I may also use small colored balls and streamers of beads, ribbons, or paper chains. Because of the philanthropic nature of these special days, sometimes gifts are given or exchanged, so I also use tiny wrapped boxes as decorations. In addition, I have fake ice cream cones that I can hang around. Children are most delighted with them.
Then comes the month of fasting, named, ”Loftiness,” when one is to raise their thoughts above trivial physical matters of this world, such as hunger, and focus on what is more important: the development of your soul and how to live your life to be of dedicated service to others.
The fast ends with the Spring Equinox, and the beginning of a new year. If I host a New Years party for this transition, when the first signs of spring begin to appear, I often bring the bare branch of a tree inside and decorate it. In my part of the world, there are no new leaves on trees yet, so the branch is bare, but some birds have begun to arrive and claim their territory, so I decorate this bare branch with birds. But not live birds. I have found fake, ornamental birds and use them. They are colorful and much easier to manage. Sometimes, I will add electrical decorations to this branch, sometimes not.
Thirty-two days after the new year begins, comes the Most Great Festival, the Festival of Riḍván, the Festival of Paradise. This is a twelve-day period celebrating the days which Bahá’u’lláh (the Glory of God), the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, spent in a garden before His exile from Baghdad to Constantinople (now Istanbul). He was a prisoner of conscious because He claimed to be a Messenger of God. The Muslim authorities in His native Persia (now Iran) could not allow that. Freedom of conscience was illegal then, and is still now. Even though He had been banished from his country for life, the Persian authorities were not happy with Him being so close to their border, so He was exiled further away.
So many people of the city were distressed at this news and came to express their regrets, that the family could not pack for the journey. In response, Bahá’u’lláh camped in a garden that was offered for this purpose so people could visit Him there before His departure. During this time, He told a few of His admirers about His conviction that He had received a Message from God. This Message forbid Holy War; affirmed that there is only one Creator of all that is, and the names used for the Creator do not matter; that the Creator has guided humankind from the beginning, some of these Guides being: Adam, Abraham, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad and now Himself; that women are equal to men; and gave a process for settling disputes so there will be no more cause for war, which is beneath the dignity and nobility of the human race. For this, He was stripped of His possessions, exiled, and a prisoner the final forty years of His life.
Bahá’ís celebrate these twelve days, with the first, ninth and twelfth, as specific Holy Days. The garden where He camped was full of roses; in that place, at that time of year, they were blooming. Where I live, roses are not yet blooming, but some flowers are and, artificial flowers can bloom any time of year, so I may use one or the other, or (gasp!) both. Maybe even some electrical decorations too!
In some countries and cultures, electrical decorations are used at various times of the year for various celebrations. Why can’t we use them at various times for various celebrations too? Electricity and colored glass have no religious beliefs.