The first day of spring — 21 March — marks the beginning of the New Year for Baha’is all around the world. This occasion, also called Naw-Ruz, symbolizes the renewal brought by all the great religions throughout the ages.
Naw-Ruz is the first day of the Baha’i calendar, which is divided into nineteen months of nineteen days. The New Year also coincides with the end of the Baha’i fast, which is observed during the last month of the year.
The month of fasting, during which Baha’is abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset, (pregnant or breast-feeding women, the sick and those who are travelling are exempt), is a period of preparation for the new year. The physical fast is a symbol reminding those who observe it of the power and nature of the soul and spirit. Since the fast takes place just before the spring equinox, the days and nights are approximately the same length everywhere on the planet.
This year, Baha’is will celebrate the beginning of Year 171 of the Baha’i Era. The Bab, the forerunner of Baha’u’llah, founder of the Baha’i Faith, instituted the Baha’i calendar. Baha’u’llah himself confirmed the use of this calendar. The first day of the new Baha’i year coincides with the spring equinox, which is traditionally celebrated in Iran and its neighbouring regions as the beginning of the year.
Naw-Ruz is a festive occasion that often includes music and the reading of prayers and texts from the Holy Writings. As is the case for most Baha’i holy days, there are very few rules regarding the celebration, which means that there are many variations based on local customs. The celebrations vary from location to location around the world but also from one community to the next in Canada. However, they all reflect the principle of unity in diversity, since people of all backgrounds gather in a spiritual and warm atmosphere to celebrate the renewal brought by spring.
It is a Holy Day on which work is normally suspended for Baha’is.