Friends and neighbours gathered across Ontario to celebrate the Twin Holy birthdays of The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh on November 6th and 7th. The following accounts from six localities in both rural and urban contexts, are offered as inspiration for the plans being made towards the upcoming Centenary celebrations of the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
From Sophie in Overbrook, Ottawa:
Our team has been struggling over the pandemic, so we kept our Holy Day plan simple and were really warmed by the outcome. 50 participants attended, including some new friends who were in the park and stopped by to see what we were doing. We invited all the children, JY, and youth connected to activities and dedicated time to visiting and inviting parents. We said that even if one parent comes, we would consider it a victory – and five came.
Some team members baked mini cupcakes, another brought thermoses of hot chocolate, and we had a simple program in the park before sunset. The children sang a few songs they had learned in their classes, led by one of the youth. One of the team members said a few words about why we were gathered, linking our neighbourhood activities with the Message of unity and justice that these Twin Luminaries brought, and the junior youth shared about the book they are currently studying. Our team witnessed the joy people had to simply come and celebrate together. This also helped those of us on the team to see that the individual activities we are engaged in are part of a larger process and a movement within the neighbourhood. While we didn’t focus too much on who the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh were, other than connecting them to the group of Bahá’ís present, and Their Message as the foundation to these activities, we recognized that we want to build some understanding of who these Figures are and to begin having more conversations about the Master as well, so that when we celebrate the Centenary later this month, our friends and neighbours will know Who they are celebrating and why.
From Noora in York North:
For the Twin Holy Days, we had our first ever cluster-wide Children’s Festival. We’ve had other more local festivals in the past but this was the first time we brought together three localities and six classes. Approximately 120 people attended the festival, though we hope to keep better count in future as part of our learning. The festival was held outdoors. After the Children’s Festival was complete, a Junior Youth Festival was also held, with twenty who attended.
We printed invitations to the festival and asked each child attending classes to invite one friend to join us. Our teachers were asked to prepare a presentation for the Festival, to prepare and facilitate a craft/activity, and to buy gifts for the children. Each gift included the prayer for children and a card inviting our friends to register for the children’s classes. The festival consisted of five stations, a puppet show, a dance workshop, a bouncy castle, a trampoline and free play. Each class did a short presentation involving a prayer or a song. Our crafts included bookmarks with quotations and paper crowns with the quote “Let your light shine” written on it. After the class presentations, 8-10 new families asked to register their children in the classes.
Through this festival, capacity was raised in the teachers who had to consult with one another and coordinate the activities. Our children learned to invite their friends to a Bahá’í celebration. Capacity was also raised in the parents who were encouraged to invite other families to the Holy Day celebration and festival. Through this festival, we learned about what it looks like to draw on the support of three different Local Spiritual Assemblies who contributed materially, assisted with the promotion of the festival and attended in person.
From Lita in Delena, Hamilton:
To celebrate the life of Bahá’u’lláh, over 30 friends including children, JY, youth and adults gathered at the Delena neighborhood center on Sunday afternoon. A simple yet joyful program was organized by the youth who had been engaged in intensive study of the Institute over the summer and who are actively serving as children’s class teachers and animators of the junior youth program. In order to prepare the content of the gathering, the youth reviewed relevant sections of Book 2: Arising to Serve, and focused on articulating the transformative power of His Revelation. The youth focused on Bahá’u’lláh as a Messenger of God for this day, the role of crisis and victory in our spiritual growth, and the importance of translating His Teachings of universal love and friendship into a process of sustained community transformation. A small clip was shared from the 2013 worldwide youth conferences on the role of mutual support, and the celebration ended with joyful singing and simple refreshments.
From Helen in Kawartha Lakes:
On November 6th, the Bahá’ís of Kawartha Lakes organized a beautiful celebration of the Twin Holy Birthdays of The Báb & Bahá’u’lláh at the Bethany Bahá’í Centre of Learning. It was a warm gathering of 55 people from Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, Peterborough and some guests from Toronto, including six friends of the Faith. The program included stories, devotions, games and music, and a sumptuous pot luck dinner was served by volunteers topped off by a cake with candles to celebrate the occasion. A bonfire outside lured some out into the cold after the program ended. The children participated by offering prayers and sharing a play telling the story of The Báb as a young boy at school as well as the story of Mulla Husayn meeting the Báb. Prayers were offered in six different languages. The main hall at the Bethany Bahá’í Centre of Learning was decorated with strings of lights, balloons and battery-operated candles, creating an ambiance of true celebration and joy. Special songs for the event were performed by Nancy Lee, Peter Smith and Hannah Michel. It was a wonderful afternoon and evening at Bethany, where Covid protocols were followed, allowing for the opportunity to invite friends from the wider community.
From Sara Louie in North York/Central North East:
For the Twin Holy Days, I had a celebration in my home with children and youth for the Birth of the Báb, and then a celebration the next day for the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh with adults. For the Birth of the Báb, I outreached to my neighbours and invited their children and junior youth to come over for a devotional. We had a devotional, sang a song about love and had dinner and cake. I also printed a prayer for children and attached it to some notebooks which I offered as gifts. I’ve been reflecting that there are many ways to hold celebrations. Junior youth and children are the foundation of the spiritual civilization we are building so I wanted to focus on them. For the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh, I invited adults and families who are from the nucleus I’m working with. About 17 people came, and we watched part of the film, Dawn of the Light. There were also prayers and a short story of Bahá’u’lláh. But then we focused on asking what Bahá’u’lláh really wants us to do. It’s nice to celebrate His Life, but what’s the gift we can give Him? [We agreed that] it’s being of service, of course. It’s all about the connection between worship and service.
From Martharoot in Springdale, Brampton:
Our neighbourhood had 3 Holy Day celebrations. We are lucky to have Diwali always fall so close to the celebration of the Twin Luminaries because it means most of Brampton is already celebrating light and surrounded by an atmosphere of prayer. Naturally this meant we could speak of Diwali and how the Manifestations who serve as a light to the world could be celebrated together. This awareness was present throughout all three gatherings.
A total of 63 individuals attended across all three gatherings. The first gathering was hosted at the home of a family in the neighbourhood, the second was at our neighbourhood centre and on Zoom, and the third gathering was at a park.
Each gathering was characterized by devotions and included a simple art or group activity to reflect this special time of the year. Our neighbourhood has seen how attractive it is to celebrate Diwali and the Twin Holy Days together. Bringing these celebrations closer to one another means we continue to learn about each home in our neighbourhood developing a stronger relationship to The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh and how this could lead to more families integrating the Twin Manifestations into their Diwali celebrations. One family brought sparklers and are all excited to continue having them as we celebrate both Diwali and the Twin Holy Days in our neighbourhood in the future!