From March 2-20, Baha’is worldwide observe the annual 19-Day Fast by refraining from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. As in many world religions, the fast is a time for reflecting on one’s spiritual progress and making an effort to detach from material desires.
During the fast, Baha’is age 15 and older typically rise before dawn to eat breakfast and pray. At sunset they break the fast, often gathering with Baha’i friends to enjoy a meal together. The following are exempt from fasting, as it could be harmful to their health: those younger than 15 and older than 70, the ill or infirm, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, travelers and those engaged in heavy physical labor.
The 19-Day Fast is “essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character.” (Baha’i Reference Library)
Baha’is celebrate the start of a new year with the arrival of spring
After sundown on March 20 – the eve of the vernal equinox – Baha’is throughout the world will celebrate Naw-Ruz, the start of the Baha’i New Year. For Baha’is this is a religious holiday that marks the end of the Nineteen Day Fast. It is one of the nine Baha’i holy days on which work and school is to be suspended.
The Baha’i Faith originated in Persia (present-day Iran), and the Baha’i calendar adopted the Persian new year holiday, Naw-Ruz, which has been celebrated for thousands of years at the vernal equinox.
Baha’is observe Naw-Ruz through prayer, meditation, readings from Baha’i scripture and festive gatherings.
A unique calendar: 19 months of 19 days each
The Baha’i calendar dates back to the ministry of the Bab (1844-1853), who heralded the imminent appearance of Baha’u’llah (1817-1892), the founder of the Baha’i Faith.
Also known as the Badi Calendar, the Baha’i calendar is divided into 19 months of 19 days each. The Baha’i year begins on March 21, the first day of spring. Days begin and end at sunset, and the week begins on Saturday.
On the first day of every Baha’i month, Baha’i communities gather for Feast, which includes prayer, fellowship, and discussion of the spiritual and social affairs of the Baha’i community.
Baha’i months and days of the week are named after attributes of God. The following is a list of the 19 months in the Baha’i year: Splendour, Glory, Beauty, Grandeur, Light, Mercy, Words, Perfection, Names, Might, Will, Knowledge, Power, Speech, Questions, Honour, Sovereignty, Dominion and Loftiness.
Reprinted with permission from the Baha’is of the United States
(see U.S. Baha’i News)