Monday, February 27, 2012

Happy Ayyam-i-Ha

I was going to continue to write about the Dr Peter Centre, but the calendar got in the way, as did my keyboard problems. I'll continue that story later in the week.

Today, however, I want to write about one of my favorite times of the year: Ayyam-i-Ha.

Ayyam-i-Ha, in case you don't know, means "the days of Ha", and that alone means it's full of joy. In what other calendar system do you have days dedicated to laughter? It would be like calling Christmas-time the "days of ho ho ho". Hmmm. Ayyam-i-ho-ho-ho. I kind of like that.

It is a time of joyous celebration that is also called the Intercalary Days, because the Baha'i Calendar consists of 19 months of 19 days each. Do the math and you'll realize that this only makes 361 days. These intercalary days make up the rest of the solar year, so we have 4 days of celebration, except in a leap year (like this one) when we have 5.

Five days of joy and celebration. What more can you ask for?

"The days which Thou hast named the Ayyam-i-Ha in Thy Book have begun..." But just in case we want to get carried away, Baha'u'llah reminds us later in that same prayer, "...the fast which Thy most exalted Pen hath enjoined unto all who are in the kingdom of Thy creation to observe is approaching." (And yes, that's right. You read it correctly. Just after the Intercalary Days comes the Inter-Calorie Days.) (I used to put a sign on my candy dish that would read "A yummy? Ha! Happy fasting.")

It is also the time of my son's birthday. Like Shoghi Effendi (the Guardian), Shoghi (my son) was born on a Sunday during Ayyam-i-Ha. This makes it an even more joyous time of celebration in my house. And today, the very day of his birth, he is turning 7 (my son, not the Guardian).

So what is it that we do? I'm glad you asked, dear Reader.

These joyous days can be used as spiritual preparation for the fast, and they can also be used for hospitality, feasting, charity and gift giving.

What was that? I'm sorry, I think I mis-understood you. What is it that we, in my family, do? Oh, sorry. I thought you meant what do we Baha'is do?

First of all, we have two very different celebrations in our house: one for Ayyam-i-Ha and the other for Shoghi's birthday. Yesterday, for example, we had a birthday party at a local recreation centre. We brought in pizza, played tons of highly active games, and gave personalized gift bags to all who came. (What I mean by personalized is that we wrote their names on the bags and gave small little gifts that we thought appropriate to each child, like a notepad with music on it for the girl who loves the piano. That sort of thing.) But most important, we asked the kids to bring change for a local charity that helps children in need. This not only helped raise a bit of money for a good cause, it also helped remind the children of the importance of giving to charity. (The total he raised was just over $100.) There, at that party, I was able to talk to a few of the adults about why it is that we chose to do this, explaining both the charity aspect, as well as Ayyam-i-Ha.

At home, though, we do a few other things.

Some of the Baha'i friends like to talk about the Ayyam-i-Ha Camel in the same way that some Christian families will talk about the Easter Bunny. But not us. That poor bunny is busy enough with Easter. We don't need to make any extra work for him. Nope. We have the Ayyam-i-Ha Llama. (I think it sounds better than a bunny anyways.) I've described a bit about his activities before, but I think I'll do it again, just for fun.

Although Shoghi (both my son and the Guardian, I'm sure) is well aware that the Ayyam-i-Ha Llama doesn't really exist, we do like to have fun with it. We realized that it is no longer common to hang your socks by the fireplace to dry overnight, so "Christmas" stockings was just kind of unnatural, even though I really wanted to do them. But we do toss our jackets on the backs of chairs or hang them on the doorknobs. We decided to put little gifts in everyone's pockets. Every evening during Ayyam-i-Ha, Shoghi and I "sneak" downstairs and help the Ayyam-i-Ha Llama with this task, making sure to put gifts in our own pockets, too, because it is very important to be generous to yourself, too.

We also love to hang lights. These lights generally go up sometime around Christmas and stay up all the way through this time of year. If we're really lazy they also substitute as Naw Ruz lights. (Most years they even do duty as Ridvan lights.) We really love it.

This is the time of year when we get to pick and choose our own joyous and festive ways of celebrating. it is when we get to give all those little gifts to our friends that we've been collecting throughout the year. It is that time of the year when we get to be exuberant and celebratory, confusing our friends who are all shivering and frowny-faced, and explain to them just what it is that we are so happy about.

And it is also a time of the year when we get to think about just what it is that we are going to do during those long lunch hours of the Fast.

My friend, Lucki, who taught me the Faith, told me that she would choose a Book, such as Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, and spend her lunch time studying it. I liked that idea a lot, and so I've scraped off the serial number and stolen the idea. (I know a good idea when I steal it.) (I also know a good line when I steal it.) (<-- Like that one.)

This year Marielle and I are going to study the Kitab-i-Ahd and the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha. (I thought I'd give you fair warning.)

But for now, I'm going to go outside and enjoy the beautiful crisp, sunny day that God has blessed this area with. And I'm going to go around wishing people a happy and joyous Ayyam-i-Ha, even though most of them will probably think I'm talking about a motorcycle.

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