Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Ayyam-i-Ha is soon upon us, and as a parent of a young child, I am once again wondering how to make that time even more special for him.  This task is made doubly difficult by the fact that Shoghi's birthday is during Ayyam-i-Ha.  Poor guy.  It must be like a Christian having their birthday on Christmas, but four times more likely (or five times in a leap year).

Relevant aside - Shoghi was born on Sunday 27 February 2005, just a few minutes before midnight.  We had no idea what to call him, as we were expecting a little girl. I held the beautiful little guy in my arms and said, "Samuel".  The wee one, just a few minutes out of the womb, looked at me and growled. The nurse, who was far more experienced in these mattes than myself looked over in surprise and said, "That's not his name." Not one to be daunted in such trying conditions, I said, "Daniel." The new-born little dude was not impressed, and growled his displeasure once again. I went through all the names we had considered, only to fail with each one. The last name on the list, our final hope, was "Shoghi".  When I said that name, he looked up at me and giggled.  He has been Shoghi ever since. Oh, and when we got home a few days later, Marielle was amused to see me in a large comfy chair, with Shoghi snuggled in my lap. I was reading "The Priceless Pearl" to him. Oh, and that was when, much to my surprise and shock, I learned that Shoghi Effendi was also born on a Sunday during Ayyam-i-Ha.

This is a great time to be a Baha'i (hmm, like there's ever a bad time?) because we get to set our own traditions.  And these traditions will have great meaning for our family.  So I am trying to take extra care with them, as much as I can.

Shoghi goes to a daycare a few times a week, and so he gets to learn about all the various cultural traditions in this country.  Over Christmas-time he learned all about Santa, and he just loves Santa.

Random aside - Due to my poor early morning typing skills, and a general weariness hovering over my brain right now, the thought of a Santa Mantra just came to mind.  I can just imagine a Buddhist / Christian child whose parents practice laughter yoga chanting "ho ho ho ho ho ho ho".  Ah, never mind.

Shoghi loves Santa and wanted to know if he came to visit Baha'is during Ayyam-i-Ha.  What else can you say but, "Of course, that's how he spreads out his workload."

One thing I decided a number of years ago was to draw upon my own family's traditions and incorporate them forward.  For example, I love Chanukah and the lighting of the menorah, so we often include the lighting of candles in our prayers.

Another tradition that really meant a lot to me as a child was the Christmas stockings.  (Yes, we did Christmas and Chaukah both when I was a child.) I have given a lot of time and thought about how to include the stockings in our family tradition, and this is what I came up with.

For Ayyam-i-Ha, a time devoted to feasting, rejoicing and charity, I decided to try and include these stockings.  I am so grateful to my wife for allowing me this quirk (everybody has their quirks; she just married hers). We hang the stockings by the plants (no fireplace in this house), and at night, after everyone has gone to sleep, we each sneak downstairs and put a small gift in every stocking, including our own.

Why including our own? Because I believe that we need to learn to show charity to everyone, including ourselves.  This, I thought, would be a good way to help cultivate that.

Each of these traditions should have significant meaning, as well as being fun or enjoyable.  After all, if religion isn't enjoyable, filling you with joy, why are you practicing it? Doesn't God want you to be happy in your life?  'Abdu'l-Baha said, "we must be happy and pass our time in praises, appreciating all things."

How can we use these traditions to help cultivate this sense of happiness and joy?

I believe the Ayyam-i-Ha stockings can work for my family.

I told my friend Samuel about this idea, and a few days later he gave me a gift that I treasure to this day: a red and white Ayyam-i-Ha stocking, with a little bear sticking out of the top.  Shoghi and I are looking forward to hanging it up soon and seeing what it gets filled with.

He and I are just beginning to go around to the various stores to look for little gifts we can use to fill the stockings and he is already thinking about all the friends he wants to give gifts to. In fact, he is even talking about giving Ayyam-i-Ha gifts to the people who are coming to his birthday party this year.

Yes, this is the time to begin our own traditions, laden with rich meaning, and evocative of that joy that will fill a lifetime with good memories. To this day I still get that warm and fuzzy feeling when I recall running downstairs as a child and seeing the ashen footprints my parents laid out from the fireplace to the Christmas tree.

That is the joy I hope to help Shoghi feel when he thinks of Ayyam-i-Ha. But don't worry, I'm not going to do snowy camel prints leading to the stockings.

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