It behoveth the people of Bahá, throughout these days, to provide good cheer for themselves, their kindred and, beyond them, the poor and needy, and with joy and exultation to hail and glorify their Lord, to sing His praise and magnify His Name; and when they end — these days of giving that precede the season of restraint — let them enter upon the Fast.” — Bahá’u’lláh
Even with the altered conditions brought about by a global pandemic, this is a truly beautiful time of the year, when our communities come together to celebrate Ayyám-i-Há.
Each community’s celebrations reflect the reality of that community and its unique circumstances – some will have events focused around activities for children and young families, and others will create more formal commemorations to suit the older members of the community. Many communities will have more than one celebration in order to accommodate as many as possible, and enfold them into the spirit of joyful generosity and companionship which particularly marks these special days.
The abundance of Ayyám-i-Há is followed by the restraint and careful austerity of the Fast, and in the space of a day, the outward behaviour of our communities change, but the inward realities of our lives do not. The generosity and service of Ayyám-i-Há is deepened and enhanced by the abstinence and sacrifice of fasting, and the community moves from expressions of material prosperity such as gift-giving, to self-imposed frugality.
The spiritual principles which guide these behaviours do not alter – it does not become less important to be joyful during the Fast, nor is sacrifice unneeded during times of celebration.
The Universal House of Justice wrote: “The inner joy that every individual seeks, unlike a passing emotion, is not contingent on outside influences; it is a condition, born of certitude and conscious knowledge, fostered by a pure heart, which is able to distinguish between that which has permanence and that which is superficial.”
The abundance and then the privation that we experience, side by side, demonstrates the way in which we experience that inner joy, detached from material influences, as we begin the Fast with delight and gratitude.
Our inner reality is not affected by the superficial and external circumstances of our daily reality, and we can begin to put into practice Bahá’u’lláh’s teaching that we should be “generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity”. We experience a taste of each, and we remain steadfastly joyful, grateful, and generous.