christmas cheer

noel / christmasso the christmas holiday season is finally here, and many people around the world are either freaking out (due to the stress of last-minute shopping and mounting debt), bored out of their minds (because they don’t celebrate christmas, everyone’s away and nothing’s open) or boarding planes to get the heck out. I’ll be among the latter category this year; two good friends of mine, Misagh and Jamál, are getting married in Edmonton during the holidays, so I’ll be flying out to happily attend! Along the way, I’m also planning to visit friends in Vancouver and Winnipeg, returning on January 1. There’ll surely be lots of great photos coming out of the whole trip, so do keep your eyes peeled in the new (gregorian) year.

One of the questions most often asked of Baha’is around this time of the year is: Do Baha’is celebrate Christmas? The answer I usually give is no, we don’t—not as a religious observance, anyway. All the same, Baha’is are very sympathetic to the ideals of charity, generosity, all-embracing love and goodwill towards humanity that are often upheld as characteristic of the Christmas holidays. There are certain Baha’i holidays which celebrate these virtues—the curious should look up Ayyám-i-Há.

Another question often asked around Christmas is: How do Baha’is view Christ? I particularly like the answer given in a news brief published on Thursday by the Baha’is of the United States: that Jesus Christ “is revered in the Baha’i Faith as a Manifestation of God, and anyone who embraces the Baha’i Faith—regardless of their religious background—also confesses the universal redemptive significance of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection”. The article also quotes Bahá’u’lláh’s words regarding Christ, an excerpt of which I’ll quote here due to them being so beautiful and amazing:

Know thou that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its evidences, as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee.Read more ]

so merry christmas to all my christian friends, and while I’m at it, happy hanukkah to my jewish friends, too. may the spirit of friendliness, fellowship and unity pervade your celebrations, turn enemies into friends, and infuse fresh capacity and new life into your souls.

2 thoughts on “christmas cheer

  1. Hello! I’m not too sure when this was posted, but wanted to connect with you if I could. I am new to the Bahai faith, and my children are starting their education in Baha’i as well, but I have a question. My kids have celebrated Christmas their entire lives. They don’t do it out of love for Christ, yet they love the traditions and family gatherings. We are the only Baha’i in our family, so I don’t want to deprive them of this comfort. I still want to put up a Christmas tree, I still want Santa to come, but don’t know how to handle this when it comes to being Baha’i now. If you have any insight, please let me know. Hopefully you are still writing your blog and will see that I have sent you this. Have a wonderful day!

    Erin

  2. Erin, I noticed no one had answered. I hope you’re still Bahá’í, though, three years later, and your community, perhaps the Local Spiritual Assembly, helped. But if you’re still looking for an answer, here’s my reply.

    Christmas in Western culture, and especially in the US, is very much a big deal. I think that it probably is THE most important holiday and that there are a lot of expectations that people have during this time of year.

    Remember that the early Christians eventually differentiated themselves from any earlier faith they had followed – whether it was Judaism or the Roman paganism. For the Romans, Saturnalia was a huge festival (complete with gift-giving, feasting, and merriment), yet the early Christians did not participate because they did not believe in worshiping Saturn – and because many of the traditions associated with Saturnalia conflicted with their new beliefs.

    Those that came from the Jewish tradition did still cling to those traditions for up to a century after Christ came, but various factors (such as persecution which caused them to flee outside Judea and inability to access a temple) contributed to their adapting to Christian practices.

    Because the Faith is God’s latest revelation, it has its own calendar and own Holy Days. Therefore, while it’s not wrong to accept your family’s invitation to Christmas dinner – or even for you to host one for your family! – to continue with your own celebration which favors only one of God’s Messengers would not respect the other Messengers. In any case, the Universal House of Justice gave guidance on this subject in 2002; the letter is online for you to read.

    As you most probably already know, Ayyám-i-Há is the four to five (in leap years) day period of time when Bahá’ís show love, fellowship, and unity – and many times exchange gifts (however, that are usually inexpensive and/or home made).

    Before my husband became Bahá’í, we did celebrate Christmas. However, after he declared, we did not continue the tradition, although we did go to relatives and friends homes. As a service to those who did all that heavy cooking, we did sometimes host Christmas dinner at our house. We would go to mass, read the Bible, and sometimes sponsor a family as well. But we also made sure we hosted the community’s Ayyám-i-Há party, and involved both boys in its planning and execution. And we definitely invited our non-Bahá’í family and friends to partake.

    Remember, though, that the Faith does not encourage blindly following tradition. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, “In past centuries the nations of the world have imagined that the law of God demanded blind imitation of ancestral forms of belief and worship. For example, the Jews were captives of hereditary racial religious observances. The Muslims, likewise, have been held in the bondage of traditionary forms and ceremonials. The Christians also have been implicit followers of ancient tradition and hereditary teaching. At the same time the basic foundation of the religion of God, which was ever the principle of love, unity and the fellowship of humanity, has been forsaken and cast aside, each religious system holding tenaciously to imitations of ancestral forms as the supreme essential.” The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 443. So it’s a good thing because we do not have to celebrate a Holy Day the same way every time!

    God bless you and yours.

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