Baha’is celebrate the festival of Ayyam-i-Ha each year from sunset on Feb. 25 to sunset of March 1 as a preparation for the Fast (March 2 – 20). During this time, Bahá’ís perform acts of charity, give gifts to friends and family, and attend social gatherings.
Baha’u’llah has said of Ayyam-i-Ha:
It behoveth the people of Baha, throughout these days, to provide good cheer for themselves, their kindred and, beyond them, the poor and needy, and with joy and exultation to hail and glorify their Lord, to sing His praise and magnify His Name. (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 25)
Because the Faith is so new (165 years old), and many of weren’t born Bahá’ís, each person must decide how to accomplish this lofty goal.Some people find this very stressful.
Battling and overcoming stress during the holidays can be a challenge to anyone. There are a number of things that can lead to this type of stress:
- Having to establish new traditions instead of relying on old ones
- Finding time and inspiration to perform acts of charity
- Lack of other Bahá’ís to celebrate with – so the four days are just like every other day
- Planning menus and grocery shopping for the fast
And typical of non-Bahá’í holiday stress comes:
- Family gatherings
- Gift buying
- And more
You may also have high expectations of what you want the holidays to look like, which also adds to the stress of your holiday season.
Here are some methods you can use to battle and overcome stress during the holidays:
Are you overcommitted? Even though the rest of the world doesn’t slow down at this time of year, it’s important to make time to both host and attend social gatherings.
Saying “no thank you” to some less important obligations will help people understand and appreciate the unique rhythm of our Faith, and will free up more time for socializing and being of service.
It’s important to honour and enjoy the spirit of the holidays. If it takes saying “no” to preserve some of your sanity, go for it! Others will be more understanding than you give them credit for.
Don’t become so burdened that you secretly wish for Ayyam-i-Ha to pass quickly. Take time to be by yourself. Whether you take a walk in nature, retreat into the Writings, journal or have a bubble bath, allow yourself to do something enjoyable to prepare for the Fast.
Carrying on traditions. Growing up, we may have preconceived ideas of what “should” be done. Maybe we watched our mothers cook a full course Christmas dinner. Perhaps it was routine to host a lavish holiday party. Maybe your family baked hundreds of Christmas cookies to give to friends and relatives.You don’t have to re-create Christmas!
Rather than living up to the expectations of years past, start your own, easy-going traditions. Instead of throwing a lavish party, have fewer friends over for tea and cookies. Allow other family members to bring side dishes to the holiday meal rather than cooking it all yourself.
If you find that the routine you normally follow for the pure and simple sake of tradition is weighing on you and resulting in more stress than you can deal with, break away from it! You will be happier when you’re free from this stress.
Finding the perfect gift. There’s so much pressure to purchase the perfect gift for each person that it takes all the fun out of shopping. Remember, people are generally appreciative for whatever gift they receive. They don’t expect you to go to every corner of the Earth to find them a spectacular gift.
Save time and money by skipping the wrapping! Creativity is the main focus. You can even give gifts that can be used throughout the year. For example, you may give a coupon in a card for a free night of babysitting, one day of yard work, or other special things.
Shopping online has made searching for gifts much easier. It might also be more cost effective to buy online because many stores offer special sales or free shipping near the holidays.
Be grateful! Hailey Tallman, a Bahá’í from the London (Canada) Community reminds us:
During this happy time of Ayyam-i-ha, let us celebrate an astounding fact: We as Baha’is know the meaning of this life! It has been revealed to us by Baha’u’llah and we repeat it everyday in our obligatory prayer:
“I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth. There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.”
AND, because of Baha’u’llah, we have a hopeful vision of the future:
“These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the ‘Most great Peace’ shall come…” (Bahá’u’lláh, Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh, p. viii)
This is more than the average person alive today knows in their hearts. What an amazing bounty and joy we have in this knowledge!And what a gift we have to share with others! Let us not delay or shy away from any opportunity to spread this love and knowledge of the meaning of life!
As you can see, there are several effective ways to battle and overcome stress during the holidays. The key is to determine what’s causing your stress so you can eliminate it. In the end, you’ll see that most of the stress you experience is a result of the expectations you pose on yourself.
Happy Ayyam-i-Ha, everybody!
What do you do to make this holiday special and stress-free? Post your comments here: