Naw-Ruz, 167 BE The Bahá'í New Year

by Mark Crossan, MA student, Department of Religious Studies, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Naw-Ruz is the celebration of the Bahá'í New Year. The Bahá'í year is divided into 19 months, each 19 days in length, with each day beginning and ending at sunset. Naw-Ruz takes place at sundown on the eve of spring, usually March 21st. Prior to Naw-Ruz, Bahá'í's have fasted for the previous month. The fast itself is broken by a prayer given directly after the sun has set. The holy day then proceeds with a feast, followed by prayers, readings, music and a general social time.

The Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of St. John's and Mount Pearl gathered at two locations to ring in the year 167 BE (Bahá'í Era). At each venue approximately 35 people joined together prior to sundown to mark the end of the month long fast.

In St. John's, a celebration was held at the house of one of the local Bahá'ís. Once everyone had gathered and was sitting, and the sun had clearly set, an announcement was made that the fast was officially over. A traditional Bahá'í prayer was then read aloud followed by a colorful "Let's get some grub" commencing the meal, which consisted of pizza, soups and salads.

The meal itself was set up in a buffet style allowing everyone in attendance to feel free to move around and socialize while fulfilling his or her appetite. The menu catered to the diverse crowd, which consisted of various ethnicities as well the young and old alike.

When everyone had finished eating, an instrumental piece of music was played to relax everyone prior to a service. Handouts were distributed consisting of the order of prayers and readings as well as additional musical selections. Since no clergy exist in the Bahá'í faith, members took turns reading the assigned prayers. No distinctions were made during the service, which allowed the children to participate as actively as the adults.

Midway through the service itself, there was a pause that allowed for a talk on the significance of Naw-Ruz and an opportunity for anyone to share any of their personal experiences. This allowed for an open environment that reflects the ideals of unity and equality within the Bahá'í faith. While only one participant shared a personal antidote, no pressure or guilt was asserted to those who chose to remain silent.

Once the service was completed, it was time for dessert and socializing. Exchanging pleasantries and wishing each other well, some discussed the importance of their faith, while others discussed current affairs, while the children played with toys.

The celebration ended with many guests lending a helping hand to wash and dry the dishes. As everyone rounded up their things preparing to leave, they wished each other a happy new year and reflected on an enjoyable evening. Some who were new to the festival received a few extra handouts consisting of common Bahá'í prayers and basic principles of their faith. The evening's event ended after a little more than two hours of celebration.