Baha'is celebrate Ayyam-i-Ha and prepare for annual fast

February 25, 2008

SOLANO, Philippines — Baha'i children love Ayyam-i-Ha because it's a special period of the year devoted to charity, hospitality, social events, and the giving of gifts.

Because of the leap year, they have an extra day this year. Ayyam-i-Ha extends from Feb. 26 to March 1, so the added day of Feb. 29 comes during this time.

In Solano, a town of 50,000 people north of Manila, the children are used to filling the period with family and community activities. A visit to a home for the elderly, an evening for public prayers, a day of fun in the park, singing for the inmates at a prison - these are typical activities, said Holly Celeste, a local Baha'i.

"Basically during this period we focus on our children," she said. "This is usually done by friends and family coming together to do service-oriented activity with the children. The idea is for the children to come together and learn what fun being of service can be."

Similarly, Baha'is around the world celebrate Ayyam-i-Ha with prayers and special activities, which are a prelude and preparation for the annual fasting period, March 2 to 20.

2 images
Children in Solano, in the Philippines, enjoy music during last year's Ayyam-i-Ha festivities at the local Baha'i center.

"Ayyam-i-Ha" means literally the "Days of Ha" ("ha" is an Arabic letter), and in the Baha'i calendar they form the intercalary days that fill out the 365 or 366 days of the solar year. The Baha'i calendar consists of 19 months of 19 days each, giving 361 days, requiring the addition of four or five more days.

The calendar was established by the Bab, the prophet who was the forerunner of the Founder of the Baha'i Faith, Baha'u'llah. But it was Baha'u'llah who specified that the Days of Ha should be inserted in the calendar just before the month of fasting.

Baha'u'llah 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."