From February 26 to March 1, Baha’is across Canada celebrate the festival of Ayyam-i-Ha. Ayyam-i-Ha is a time of gift-giving, hospitality, and charity. This joyful festival precedes the 19-day Baha’i month devoted to fasting, restraint, and spiritual introspection, at the end of the Baha’i calendar, from March 2nd to the 20th. The Baha’i New Year (Naw Ruz) is celebrated on March 21.
Ayyam-i-Ha is celebrated in many ways around the world. In Canada, one can expect to see gift exchanges between friends and family groups, large dinners, service projects, and parties for children. Many schools invite the parents of Baha’i children to present to their classes.
In neighbourhoods across the country, groups of friends engaged in the community-building process promoted by Baha’is are finding, in the festival of Ayyam-i-Ha, a time to celebrate and strengthen their bonds of love and fellowship with neighbours.
In Winnipeg, for example, a recently arrived member of the community, Cedric Gaber, has found herself closely connected to more than a dozen families in her neighbourhood because of their Ayyam-i-Ha plans. “We are taking a small plant and a card for Ayyam-i-Ha to all the families connected to the activities in our neighbourhood, and taking this opportunity to visit and get to know each other.”
Across the Lower Mainland, an area that includes Vancouver and the surrounding region, the social media feeds of many Baha’i youth are filling up with joyous, song-filled celebrations, of the preparation of care packages for the needy and of gifts for friend, of families decorating their homes with colourful banners and lights, amongst a range of posts that document some of their efforts to show their love, undertake charitable acts, and make an extra effort to extend their hospitality to friends and neighbours.
Ayyam-i-Ha is a unique aspect of the Baha’i calendar, which is comprised of 19 months, each with 19 days. The four (or on leap year, five) days that remain are called the “Ayyam-i-Ha” - an Arabic phrase meaning “days of Ha”. These days hold a special significance in the Baha’i calendar as days that represent the transcendence of God. Every other month in the Badi calendar has an attribute of God associated with it, such as “Knowledge”, “Glory”, or “Power”. In the Arabic language, the word “Ha” bears a special relationship to God’s unknowable essence, or that part of Him that is beyond names or attributes.