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It’s the holiday season; Christmas trees laden with beautiful ornaments, streets lined with twinkling lights and the city decorated with color.
I am filled with the holiday spirit as different Faiths celebrate this special time of year. As a Baha’i, I believe that all Faiths come from the same Divine source, so there is no need for me to choose just one tradition to enjoy.
To be a Baha’i simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood. – Abdu’l-Baha, quoted by J.E. Esselmont in Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 83.
Since I came from a Christian background originally, I still delight in the wonderful traditions of my ancestors. My son goes caroling with friends from his theater group. I play Christmas carols and watch corny Christmas movies. My husband cuts down the perfect Christmas tree from our property and we honor the birth of the baby Jesus with our relatives.
My uncle, a Baha’i from a Jewish background, still holds his family traditions of Hanukkah in his heart. African-American Baha’i friends continue to observe Kwanzaa, and at the New Year, Persian Baha’i friends celebrate traditions from their heritage going back hundreds of years.
Precious Native American Baha’i friends commemorate the Winter Solstice. From ancient times, all over the world, people have recognized this important astronomical occurrence and celebrated the successive “return” of the Sun in a variation of different ways. Old solstice traditions have even influenced the holidays we celebrate now, such as Christmas and Hanukkah. At the solstice, one dear Native American friend gathers a large group of believers to a mountain sweat lodge for prayers and meditations.
There is rich beauty to be found in all the celebrations, and a reason to recognize our common oneness. The point is, that, as a Baha’i am free to, but not bound to, celebrate the holy days of all the religions if I so choose. I acknowledge their validity and value their contributions. The Baha'i teachings unequivocally accept and recognize the founders of all the world’s great Faiths:
As to the position of Christianity, let it be stated without any hesitation or equivocation that its divine origin is unconditionally acknowledged, that the Sonship and Divinity of Jesus Christ are fearlessly asserted, that the divine inspiration of the Gospel is fully recognized, that the reality of the mystery of the Immaculacy of the Virgin Mary is confessed, and the primacy of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, is upheld and defended.
The Founder of the Christian Faith is designated by Bahá’u’lláh as the “Spirit of God,” is proclaimed as the One Who “appeared out of the breath of the Holy Ghost,” and is even extolled as the “Essence of the Spirit.” His mother is described as “that veiled and immortal, that most beauteous, countenance,” and the station of her Son eulogized as a “station which hath been exalted above the imaginings of all that dwell on earth,” whilst Peter is recognized as one whom God has caused “the mysteries of wisdom and of utterance to flow out of his mouth. - Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, pp. 109-110.
So no matter which holidays you observe, what is it that we are really celebrating at this time of year? What spirit is common to all Faiths and all religions? We are all worshiping the same loving God and striving to serve our fellow human beings. This is a season when we can come together to appreciate each joyous celebration in a spirit of the utmost love and unity:
O contending peoples and kindreds of the earth! Set your faces towards unity, and let the radiance of its light shine upon you. Gather ye together, and for the sake of God resolve to root out whatever is the source of contention amongst you. Then will the effulgence of the world’s great Luminary envelop the whole earth, and its inhabitants become the citizens of one city, and the occupants of one and the same throne. - Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 217.
Regardless of what your holiday traditions are, this is a wonderful time to acknowledge the customs and celebrations of your neighbors and to join in the true spirit of the season for which every religion prays:
Peace on Earth