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This was written and published as a series of short features on the Facebook page.

I. Naw-Rúz

II. The Twin Birthdays

III. The Timing and Duration of Ayyám-i-

IV. The Duration, and Termination, of the Fast


Part I - Naw-Rúz

In a couple of months time we will be fasting, and celebrating Naw-Rúz, on dates we have never done so before, but - following the implementation of the Badí' calendar earlier this year - many of us are still getting to grips with what has changed and why. This is the first part in a series of short posts that aim to answer common questions about what’s new in the way we use the Bahá'í Calendar...

What has changed with Naw-Rúz?

The timing of Naw-Rúz is no longer fixed to March 21 on the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian date of Naw-Rúz can fall on March 20, 21 or 22.

Why?

The length of a year, on both the Badí’ calendar and the Gregorian calendar, is based upon the amount of time it takes Earth to travel around the sun, but the two calendars use different systems to keep the calendars in sync with that journey. While the Gregorian calendar adjusts every four years (except when the  year is divisible by 100 but not by 400) by adding an extra day to February, the Badí’ calendar aligns every year by starting on the day in which the March / Bahá equinox takes place – that is, the moment when the position of the sun relative to Earth moves northward over the equator, as observed from Tihran.

Does Naw-Rúz fall on the same day as the March / Bahá equinox for everybody?

Because Bahá’u’lláh’s birthplace, Tihran, has been designated as the observation point for solar and lunar events associated with the Bahá’í calendar, the sunset to sunset period during which the equinox occurs in Tihran is designated as the first day of Naw-Rúz. In other locations the equivalent day might end before the equinox, or start after it, so the equinox will not fall on the day of Naw-Rúz for everybody.

At what time does Naw-Rúz start?

The Bahá’í festival of Naw-Rúz begins when the sun sets at the start of the designated Bahá’í day. While its calculation is tied to the Bahá equinox, its observance is not.

Why have most Bahá'ís always celebrated Naw-Rúz on March 21 before now?

The designation of the location on Earth to be used as the observation point for the Bahá equinox, which is required to designate the day of Naw-Rúz, was a decision left for the Universal House of Justice. On July 10, 2014, the Universal House of Justice designated Tihran as this location. March 21 is widely accepted as the approximate date of the equinox, as used in Christianity to determine the date of Easter (the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21, representing the date of the March equinox).

Is this change to Naw-Rúz the reason for all the other changes on the calendar?

As Naw-Rúz is the first day of the year the fact that it does not follow the same pattern as the Gregorian calendar does mean that the Gregorian equivalent of every fixed Bahá'í observance will shift on the Gregorian calendar according to the date of Naw-Rúz, however several other changes have been made in addition to this, which will be looked at later.


Part II - The Twin Birthdays

Bahá'u'lláh established four "great festivals" in the Bahá'í year. The two Most Great Festivals are Riḍván and The Declaration of the Báb. The other two great festivals are The Birth of Bahá'u'lláh and The Birth of the Báb.

On the Gregorian Calendar the dates of the births of Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb have been recorded as 12th November 1817 and 20th October 1819 respectively. On the traditional Hijri (Islamic) calendar these events occurred on 2nd Muharram 1233 and 1st Muharram 1235, two successive dates within the month of Muharram. Bahá'u'lláh stated that "These two days are accounted as one in the sight of God" and referred to them as the "twin days".

With the earlier implementation of the Badí' calendar in the West all Holy Days were observed on the Badí' calendar equivalent of the recorded Gregorian dates for the historical events they commemorated, while the Eastern Bahá'ís continued to use the Hijri calendar for these observances. Being a lunar calendar, the traditional Hijri calendar starts approximately 11 days earlier each year, so in the East the celebration of the Twin Birthdays moved throughout the entire year.

A letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi in November 1955 stated: "In the future, no doubt all of the Holy Days will follow the Solar calendar, and provisions be made as to how the Twin Festivals will be celebrated universally." The same letter clarifies that this decision would be left for the Universal House of Justice.

In their letter to the Bahá'ís of the World dated 14 July 2014, The Universal House of Justice, announced that the Twin Birthdays "will now be observed on the first and the second day following the occurrence of the eighth new moon after Naw-Rúz, as determined in advance by astronomical tables using Ṭihrán as the point of reference. This will result in the observance of the Twin Birthdays moving, year to year, within the months of Mashíyyat, 'Ilm, and Qudrat of the Badí' calendar, or from mid-October to mid-November according to the Gregorian calendar."

In both 1817 and 1819, the years of Bahá'u'lláh's and the Báb's birth, the month of Muharram began with the eighth new moon after Naw-Rúz. This method of fixing a date can also be found in Christianity where, for the majority of Christians, Easter is observed on the first Sunday following the first new moon after the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere (the March/Bahá Equinox).

Thus, the Twin Birthdays are now celebrated world-wide on the first and second days following a new moon, as they had remained under the Islamic calendar, and they are always celebrated during the period of the solar year in which they occurred.

In a letter written to all National Spiritual Assemblies on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, dated 3 September 2015, Shoghi Effendi is referenced as having stated that Bahá'ís should refrain from work and hold special gatherings on *both* of the twin holy days.

(The Universal House of Justice publishes tables to inform the Bahá'ís of the world when "the first and the second day following the occurrence of the eighth new moon after Naw-Rúz" will occur each year.)


Part III - The Timing and Duration of Ayyám-i-

Prior to the fuller implementation of the Badí calendar, the Bahá'í festival of Ayyám-i-Ha started at sunset on February 25th and ended at sunset on March 1st, lasting 4 days most years and 5 days in a Gregorian leap year.

This year is a Gregorian leap year, but Ayyám-i-Há will only last for 4 days. This is because of the change to the way that the date of Naw-Rúz is determined (see Part I below).

Ayyám-i-Há is celebrated between the months of Mulk and 'Alá' (the last two months of the year), the timing of Mulk is determined by the timing of Naw-Rúz in the current year, i.e. Mulk started on February 6th 2016 because Naw-Rúz was on March 21st 2015. 'Alá', the last month of the year, however, is determined by the timing of Naw-Rúz in the following year, because the Fast is to end with the last day before the Bahá (March) equinox, so this year 'Alá' starts on 1st March because Naw-Rúz will be on 20th March. This results in 4 days of Ayyám-i-Há.

Because Naw-Rúz will be March 20th in the coming Bahá'í year, Mulk and Ayyám-i-Há 173 will both start one day earlier on the Gregorian calendar next year, but as Naw-Rúz 174 is also on March 20th the period of Ayyám-i-Há will still remain 4 days. Ayyám-i-Há 174 will be the next 5 day Ayyám-i-Há (25th February to 1st March on the Gregorian calendar), with Naw-Rúz being on March 21st 2018.

The next time that a 5 day Ayyám-i-Há will coincide with a Gregorian leap year is in 2060, Ayyám-i-Há 216. In both 216 B.E. and 217 B.E. Naw-Rúz falls on 20th March.


Part IV - The Duration, and Termination, of the Fast

In previous posts we have explored how the day of Naw-Rúz is determined, and how the placement of the month of 'Alá' is determined, lasting for the 19 days immediately preceding Naw-Rúz at the start of the following year.

Prior to the common implementation of the Badí' calendar last year, there were two different traditions for the celebration of Naw-Rúz and the termination of the Fast. In the west the Fast was observed for the whole of the month of 'Alá', 2-21 March, while, especially in Iran, many Iranian Bahá'ís ended their fast at the moment of the Bahá (March) equinox, if this fell before sunset on 21 March, meaning that the Fast could last for less than 19 days. Both traditions were in keeping with authoritative texts and the Universal House of Justice were content for the different practices to continue until such time as certain aspects of the Badí' calendar were clarified and implemented.

To briefly recap, the Bahá'í festival of Naw-Rúz in Tehran now begins at the last sunset before the Bahá (March) equinox is observed in that city, and for the rest of the world the festival of Naw-Rúz and the first day of the Bahá'í year begin - and the Fast ends - at the equivalent sunset (see Part I below if this is confusing).

Thus the changes to when we break the Fast and celebrate Naw-Rúz are:

For everybody: The Fast will now always last a full 19 days (from sunrise to sunset)

For most western Bahá'ís: The only significant changes are the dates on which 'Alá' (the month of fasting) starts and ends.

For Bahá'ís in Iran: The Bahá'í festival of Naw-Rúz will now almost always begin before the Iranian new year (always for those in, and east of, Tehran). The length of the fast will never be less than 19 days and will end at the sunset preceding the Bahá (March) equinox.

For Iranian Bahá'ís elsewhere in the world: Bahá'ís with strong Iranian roots who live west of Tehran will now find that they are authoritatively obliged to sometimes fast beyond the moment of the Bahá (March) equinox and the start of the Iranian new year. However, this is not going to happen for many people this year or next year, the first year in which this will be obvious is 175 B.E. (2018) when the equinox will take place approximately one and a half hours after sunset on 20 March in Tehran, thus making Naw-Rúz start, and the Fast end, at sunset on 20th. In the Americas, and much of Europe and Africa, the time of the equinox will be in the morning or afternoon on the 20th that year. East of Tehran (Asia and Australasia) the Bahá'í festival of Naw-Rúz will always start before the Bahá (March) equinox.

What’s New With The Badí Calendar?