Baha’is of Seychelles have celebrated their New Year with social activities in eight localities on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, consisting of a spiritual programme followed by a social activity, in a spirit of love, unity and fellowship.
The Bahá’í calendar is a solar calendar with 365 or 364 days similar to the current one. However, it differs in several significant ways:
- The year is composed of 19 months of 19 days each (361 days) plus an extra period of 4 or 5 “Intercalary Days”. 19 is also special number in the Faith and the number 9 numerologically stands for Glory or Baha. The Intercalary days are days dedicated to charitable works, hospitality and good cheer.
- The days of the week and month are named after the attributes of God, such as Glory, Beauty, Grace, Justice, Mercy… For example, the first month of the year (March/April) is Splendour and the first day of the week (Monday), Perfection. This focuses man on the noble qualities that he has been endowed with and which are but a reflection of the Divine perfection.
- Years begin at Naw-Rúz, on the vernal equinox, on one of March 20-22.
- The first year is dated from March 21, 1844, the year during which the Blessed Báb proclaimed his religion, and prepared the way for the Revelation of Baha’u’llah. Years are annotated with the date notation of BE (Bahá’í Era), 2017 CE is the year 174 BE and starts at the moment of the vernal equinox on March 20, 2017.
The earliest recording of a New Year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.
The early Roman calendar designated March 1 as the New Year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March. That the New Year once began with the month of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months. September through December, our ninth through twelfth months, were originally positioned as the seventh through tenth months (septem is Latin for ‘seven’, octo is ‘eight’, novem is ‘nine’, and decem is ‘ten’.
January joins the calendar
The first time the new year was celebrated on January 1 was in Rome in 153 B.C. The new year was moved from March to January because that was the beginning of the civil year, the month that the two newly elected Roman consuls ̶ the highest officials in the Roman republic ̶ began their one-year tenure. In 46 B.C. Julius Caesar introduced a new, solar-based calendar that was a vast improvement on the ancient Roman calendar, which was a lunar system that had become wildly inaccurate over the years. The Julian calendar decreed that the new year would occur with January 1, and within the Roman world, January 1 became the consistently observed start of the new year.
The significance of Baha’i Naw-Ruz is described in terms of spring and the new life it brings. As the fast ended, we could turn a new page in our lives, inspired to right action and spiritual excellence:
From time immemorial this day has been consecrated, for in this there is a symbol. At this moment the sun appears at the meridian and the day and night are equal. Until today the north pole has been in darkness. This sacred day when the sun illumines equally the whole earth is called the equinox and the equinox is the symbol of the divine messenger. The sun of truth rises on the horizon of divine mercy and sends forth its rays on all…
…“Soon the whole world, as in springtime, will change its garb. The turning and falling of the autumn leaves is past; the bleakness of the winter time is over. The new year hath appeared and the spiritual springtime is at hand. When the sun appears at the equinox it causes a movement in all living things. The mineral world is set in motion, plants begin to sprout, the desert is changed into a prairie, trees bud and every living thing responds, including the bodies of animals and men. The rising of the sun at the equinox is the symbol of life and the human reality is revivified; our thoughts are transformed and our intelligence is quickened. The sun of truth bestows eternal life, just as the solar sun is the cause of terrestrial life…
…The day of the appearance of God’s messenger on earth is ever a sacred day, a day when man commemorates his lord…”
The New Year is preceded by 19 days of fasting, for those in good health. Just as the body is cleansed, the physical fast is symbolic of purification of thought and action, of detachment from material desires; a period of prayer and reflection and nearness to God so that we approach the New Year in a loving spirit of service to mankind.
The purpose of fasting is not for a person to suffer, but, by abstaining from food and drink, to be at least partially free from the constraints of the body and able to concentrate on things of the spirit.
Each of the Messengers of God, including Bahá’u’lláh, have had periods of fasting at some time during their ministry. Often they have withdrawn to some place of seclusion in order to commune with God in preparation for undertaking their supreme task of bringing God’s message to the world…
The accompanying photos show members of the Baha’i faith taking part in various activities to mark their New Year.
Source : Seychelles NATION