On March 21, members of the Bahá’í Faith in Corvallis held a coffee house to celebrate the first day of their New Year (Naw Ruz, or “new day” in Persian) on an afternoon bathed in sunshine. The Corvallis Bahá’ís joined millions of Bahá’ís around the world in celebrating the beginning of a new year, and the end of the annual 19 days of fasting from sunrise to sunset.
About 50 Bahá’ís and their friends gathered in the Benton County-Corvallis Library Meeting Room for brief devotions followed by coffee, tea, cake, and conversation. The organizers kept the event simple. The devotional readings consisted of one verse, known to Bahá’ís by its short-hand name, “Blessed is the Spot,” a quotation that appears on the opening page of most collections of Bahá’í prayers. The phrase is one that has been set to music in many languages and is known by heart to many Bahá’ís. This verse from the Sacred Writings of the religion was read in Mandarin Chinese, Finnish, Arabic, Hindi, and French—highlighting the central principle for Bahá’ís of the oneness of humanity.
The simple printed program provided the verse of the prayer in English for reference, and listed questions to serve as conversation starters. The guests spent an hour simply chatting, getting to know each other’s family histories as well as delving more deeply into thoughts about their religious paths and about their sense of the sacred. Bahá’ís see all religions as inspired by God, metaphorically seeing the world’s faith traditions as branches of a tree with one strong trunk, and rooted in belief in an all-knowing Creator and fashioner of the universe.
“I like this very special, low-key way to celebrate our New Year,” says Roger Blaine of Corvallis, adding “so often we neglect the simple act of just getting to know each other.”
One Baha’i present at the celebration wrote to the organizers, “I have to admit I was skeptical about this (coffeehouse) idea. It didn’t seem like it would be a celebration to me. My daughter and I had spent a leisurely afternoon talking about our fasting experience. Today, we had a family brunch before going to the coffee house. As I sat with my friend … I realized that this was so much better than a loud and exhausting dinner or even a program that 100 people would sit and watch. This way, we were all able to learn something new about each other and engage in friendly, meaningful conversation prompted by interesting questions. The real clincher for me was when my guest told me that this was just right for her. She said anything bigger or less interactive would have been overwhelming for her.”
For stories from around the United States of how Baha’is celebrate their New Year, visit http://www.bahai.us/Bahai-new-year.