Bahai News -- The Honolulu Advertiser - Spring brings a new year to some religions Posted on: Saturday, March 15, 2003

Spring brings a new year to some religions

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Religion & Ethics Writer

 •  Celebrating the new year

The Baha'i here will celebrate Naw-Ruz with a feast at 6 p.m. Friday at the Honolulu Baha'i Center, 2165 10th Ave. in Palolo; 738-5683.

Zoroastrians celebrate Nourouz (also spelled Nowrouz, No Ruz and Norouz — a Persian word literally meaning "new day") at the point of the equinox, about 3 p.m. Thursday.

The vernal equinox, which occurs a little after 3 p.m. on March 20, is more than the harbinger of spring for several faith communities in Hawai'i.

Lynne Ellen Hollinger, secretary for the Honolulu Bah‡'’, says it's also the day her religious group celebrates its Naw-Ruz, or new year.

"The vernal equinox is the day when the sun illuminates equally the whole Earth. Our writings tell us this is a sacred day — the equinox is the manifestation of the symbol of God," Hollinger said. "As the first day of spring, it's most appropriate as the day which would begin the Baha'i year."

Naw-Ruz ends in a feast, which caps 19 days of fasting from sunrise to sunset.

"This was initiated by the Bab — the forerunner of our faith," said Hollinger, explaining that the Bah‡'’ calendar is made up of 19 months of 19 days each — the closest number for the square root of 365.

At the end of each 19-day month, there's a feast. By "fast," she means taking no food or drink — nothing by mouth. (That also means no chewing gum or smoking, she said, adding that people younger than 15 or older than 70, or with child, nursing or ill are exempt from the 19-day fast.)

"This is a matter of conscience," Hollinger said. "We view it as a great privilege to be healthy enough to fast."

She estimated that there are 1,000 Bah‡'’ in 27 communities here in Hawai'i, with about 200 of those in Honolulu. About 100 are expected to gather at the celebration, which will include Bah‡'’ devotions, music and some multicultural elements, followed by a feast. The food at the feast will be multicultural, too, she said.

And as Hollinger and Trity Pourbahrami know, celebrating new year at the vernal equinox is not unique to the Baha'i.

A Zoroastrian, Pourbahrami was born in Iran. She and her family fled when she was a youth and settled in Canada, where she would later meet her husband, now a doctoral student of astronomy.

A Canadian, he converted to her religion, which is known as one of the world's smallest monotheistic faiths.

Zoroastrians are said to fit well among Jews and Christians because their beliefs are similar: They teach a single, universal God and the existence of individual souls. They look for a future savior and a final judgment. And like Jews and Christians, they say each soul is an individual, not part of the deity. But unlike other monotheists, Zoroastrian belief denies that God is all-powerful. There's free will to make good and bad choices.

Pourbahrami, project coordinator for Center on the Family at the University of Hawai'i, explained that Nourouz has been celebrated in many different ways since the Persian religion came about.

As a prelude to Nourouz, she and her husband will spend Tuesday doing Chahar Shanbeh Soori, a rite centered on a candle, with some chanting, much like a group penance service.

Knight-Ridder News Service contributed to this report.

©Copyright 2003, The Honolulu Advertiser (HI, USA)

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