With the Baha’i Faith being the newest of the world’s independent religions (it began in 1844), many Baha’is come from family backgrounds where other spiritual traditions were embraced and celebrated. So, when winter holidays, such as Christmas and Hanukkah, come each year, many Baha’is are asked, “Do you still celebrate these holidays even though you’re now a Baha’i?”
We checked in with Lisa Campbell, a Baha’i from San Francisco, Calif., who was born to a Jewish Father and Christian Mother. “I grew up with all the holidays of both religions–all of my Christian cousins would light Hanukkah candles with my brother and me if Christmas dinner fell during Hanukkah,” Campbell shares.
It was in college at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where Campbell first learned of the Baha’i Faith and after investigating its claims made the decision to join in 1995. While Campbell waits with her fellow Baha’is for Ayyam-i-Ha to come between February 26 and March 1, a holiday that is devoted to spiritual preparation for the Baha’i Fast, celebrating, hospitality, charity and gift giving, she shares that she still enjoys celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah with her family.
“I’ve been a Baha’i for over 15 years now, and I think I’m a lot less stressed out about any sort of “conflict” with the December holidays than I used to be, probably because my faith has grown over time and I feel more secure in my Baha’i identity. I’m also very lucky that my extended family is very accepting of our Faith and puts unity above all else,” Campbell states.
Campbell’s husband, Chris, shares the same sentiments. “He grew up in a Christian family that always had big holiday celebrations,” she shares. After learning about the Baha’i Faith from his stepfather, a Persian Baha’i, Chris joined the Faith right after his 21st birthday.
Now Campbell and her husband have a two year old son, Kalim, and they’re passing on the spirit of each of their family’s holidays. “This is the first year he’s been aware of the December holidays,” she notes.
“We travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles to visit my family and my in-laws, which makes it a bit easier to separate Christmas and Hanukkah from our Baha’i traditions at home. Our son will receive many gifts and enjoy the Christmas tree and lighting the menorah with his grandparents, and I’m excited that he can share that with them. For us, it’s much more about family than religion, though I hope that one day my son can understand the spiritual origins of these holidays and learn to tune out the materialistic message.”
She concludes, “My husband, son, and I will participate in Christmas and Hanukkah as much as we feel comfortable, with the goal of staying close to our families and making our mothers happy, leaving all the rest. And, as ever, resolving to make Ayyam-i-Ha as special as possible!”
Reprinted with permission from the Baha’is of the United States
(see U.S. Baha’i News)