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Friday, March 19, 2021

Naw-Ruz and the Celebration of Baha’i New Year | By Gity Etemad, MD

Baha’is all over the world will celebrate Naw-Ruz as the annual, celebratory feast of renewal - the spiritual and physical springtime. But for Baha’is, Naw-Ruz isn’t only a party – it serves as a symbolic reminder of the oneness of all the messengers of God, and the spiritual springtime they each brought to humanity. Naw-Ruz is a feast of hospitality and rejoicing.

As the first day of the Baha’i New Year, Naw-Ruz coincides with the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, which typically occurs on March 21. However, since Baha’u’llah enjoined that this festival should be celebrated on whatever day the sun passes into the constellation of Aries – that is, the vernal equinox – Naw-Ruz could fall on March 19, 20, 21, or 22, depending on the precise time of the equinox. The Festival of Naw-Ruz follows with four days Ayyam-i-Ha for community service and gift-giving, and then 19 days of fasting finally ending by the festival of Naw-Ruz.

Baha’i communities typically observe Naw-Ruz and meetings that combine prayerful devotions with joyous fellowship. Since Naw-Ruz is an ancient Persian festival that goes back thousands of years the Baha’is from Iranian backgrounds may follow some traditions associated with the ancient Persian festival, but these cultural practices are kept distinct from the religious observance itself.



A prayer by Baha’’u’llah for Naw-Ruz:

Praised be Thou, O my God, that Thou hast ordained Naw-Ruz as a festival unto those who have observed the fast for love of Thee and abstained from all that is abhorrent unto Thee. Grant, O my Lord that the fire of Thy love and the heat produced by the fast enjoined with Thy praise and with remembrance of Thee.


Gity Etemad is a fourth-generation Baha’i, a founding board member of Interfaith Philadelphia, and currently represents the region’s Baha’i community on the Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia. You can find a description of her career and other interests here.

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