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Being a Baha’i and becoming part of the local and worldwide Baha’i community offers a very distinctive way of life – a joyous, warm, loving environment that unifies people from every background.
In addition to its basic teachings, the Baha’i Faith also has its own Festivals, Holy Days and calendar. Each Baha’i year begins on the vernal equinox – the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere – with the celebration of Naw-Ruz, the Baha’i New Year.
There are nineteen months in the Baha’i calendar, and each month contains nineteen days. This gives a total of 361 days. There are four additional intercalary days (days between the months) during normal years and five during leap years to complete the requisite number of annual days in a solar calendar.
The Baha’i Era (BE) began with the Declaration of the Bab on the 23rd of May, 1844. Baha’u’llah promised that the Baha’i Era would last well beyond the appearance of the next messenger of God in not less than a thousand years. At the beginning of every Baha’i month, the Baha’is gather and celebrate the Nineteen Day Feast – a spiritual gathering that includes prayers, readings from the Baha’i writings, community consultation and, yes, refreshments and socializing. Each Baha’i month is named in Arabic after an attribute of God:
The Nineteen Day Feast brings together members of the Baha’i community for worship, consultation and fellowship, providing an occasion of hospitality and unity. The program for each Nineteen Day Feast is often divided into three parts to correspond to these purposes. The devotional portion consists of reading primarily from the writings and prayers of Baha’u’llah, the Bab and Abdu’l-Baha, and occasionally from the sacred scriptures of other religions.
Baha’is have no clergy, which means that local Baha’i communities are guided and governed by democratically-elected bodies called Local Spiritual Assemblies. The purpose of the consultative portion of the Feast is to enable individual Baha’is to discuss the needs and goals of the place where they live, and to offer suggestions to the Local Spiritual Assembly of that town or city. There is no set service, liturgy or sermon. Whoever has offered to host the Nineteen Day Feast is free to select which writings are read, and sometimes there may be music or singing, depending on the musical talents of the Baha’is in the community. The refreshments are either supplied by the host or contributed by the Baha’is who attend. However, the form the Nineteen Day Feast takes is not as important as the spirit it generates. As Baha’u’llah wrote in his Most Holy Book:
It hath been enjoined upon you once a month to offer hospitality, even should ye serve no more than water; for God hath willed to bind your hearts together, though it be through heavenly and earthly means combined.