Updated Bahá'í Calendar Unifies East and West

Updated Bahá'í Calendar Unifies East and West
The Bahá'í world community has a unified calendar for the first time in its history! Eastern and western believers utilized lunar or Gregorian dates until 2015. There now exist methods that allow adherence to a truly solar calendar--one which is far more accurate that ever in recorded history, so changes have been made to reconcile traditional dates.

The Bahá’í Faith has its own calendar, also called the Bádí calendar. Its beginning corresponds to 1844 in the Gregorian calendar and 1260 in the Islamic system. It was established by the Báb, the Forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh. Based on a solar year of 365 days, five hours and fifty minutes, it is divided into 19 months of 19 days each, with a few days left over (and an extra one in leap year) literally intercalary days. Bahá’u’lláh specified that these days be placed between the 18th and 19th months. The year begins on the vernal equinox.

Like other calendars, the seven days of the week are named. In this case, The Báb chose attributes of God: Jalál (Glory), Jamál (Beauty), Kamál (Perfection), Fidál (Grace), ‘Idál (Justice), Istijlál (Majesty), and Istiqlál (Independence). Istiqlál (Friday) is the day of rest. Days begin and end at sunset.

Each month is named for one of the names or attributes of God also: Bahá (Splendour), Jalál (Glory), Jamál (Beauty), 'Azamat (Grandeur), Núr (Light), Rahmat (Mercy), Kalimát (Words), Kamál (Perfection), Asmá' (Names), 'Izzat (Might), Mashíyyat (Will), 'Ilm (Knowledge), Quadrat (Power), Qawl (Speech), Masá'il (Questions), Sharaf (Honor), Sultán (Sovereignty), Mulk (Dominion), ‘Alá’ (Loftiness).

Ayyám’i’Há--The Intercalary Days--occurs just before the month of fasting, roughly at the end of February in the Gregorian reckoning. The month of fasting, ‘Alá’ (Loftiness), occurs during the last 19 days before the vernal equinox. [See the Bahá’í glossary article for a short explanation, and the articles on how Bahá'ís use fasting, for more details.]

Naw-Rúz, the New Year, ends the fasting period and occurs at the Vernal equinox.

Last year was the first time the Bahá'í calendar was observed in its reconstituted form, which has resulted in some changes for both those who use the Gregorian dates and those still using a lunar calendar. Before 2015, the Bahá'í calendar in western countries was synchronized with the Gregorian calendar. The practice in western countries was to start the year at sunset on March 20, regardless of the exact day and hour of the Vernal equinox.

In 2014, the Universal House of Justice separated the Bádí from the Gregorian by setting the birthplace of Bahá'u'lláh in Tehran, Iran, as the location from which the date of the Vernal equinox is fixed. "For determining the dates, astronomical tables from reliable sources are used. In the same message the Universal House of Justice decided that the birthdays of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh will be celebrated on "the first and the second day following the occurrence of the eighth New moon after Naw-Rúz" (also with the use of astronomical tables) and fixed the dates of the Bahá'í Holy Days in the Bahá'í calendar, standardizing dates for Bahá'ís worldwide. These changes came into effect as of sunset on 20 March 2015." - Wikipedia

For me, these changes are a bit unsettling. After 50 years of relying upon comfortably fixed dates I had memorized, I'm learning to deal with change from year to year--at least according to the Gregorian calendar on my wall. Those who are on a lunar calendar have been used to important dates differing from other calendars every year. Even my Christian neighbors expect Easter to fall on different dates from year to year because of how it is calculated.

True, the changes are small mostly, only a matter of a day or so difference, but that means extra attention must be paid to what day it is when I wake up every morning. It is exciting, however, to know that every Bahá'í is observing important dates in the same 24 hours, sweeping consecutively around the globe.

You Should Also Read:
The Bahá'í Calendar
Is Ayyám-i-Há Bahá'í Christmas?
Brief Bahá'í Glossary

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