Bahai News - Bahaullah's Birthday Alternative Holidays
Carpe Diem
Bahaullah's Birthday, Santa Lucia Day

By Jay Walljasper, Utne Reader

November 12
Bahaullah's Birthday

The Baha'i faith observes the 1817 birthday of founder Bahaullah with readings from the Bible, Koran, or Bhagavad Gita, along with food and music reflecting local customs. This eclecticism fits a religion that incorporates the teachings of many spiritual traditions and attracts followers throughout the world. Major centers include Tehran, Jerusalem, and Wilmette, Illinois, but smaller Baha'i communities mark this date as well. All these celebrations share the prayers created by Bahaullah himself. An example: "Bless Thou, O Lord my God, the Divine Lote-Tree and its leaves, and its boughs, and its branches, and its stems, and its offshoots. . . . Protect it, then, from the mischief of the aggressor and the hosts of tyranny."

December 13
Santa Lucia Day

Santa Lucia Day, which honors a fourth-century Sicilian girl who tore out her eyes because they attracted attention from a pagan suitor, and who was martyred for her Christian beliefs, is celebrated in Sweden as the start of Yuletide festivities. Medieval missionaries spread Lucia's story throughout Europe; its theme of darkness (her blindness) and light (her religious faith) resonated with Swedes, who endure long stretches of night around her December 13 feast day. Lucia's tale was also reminiscent of the Nordic pagan goddess Freya, who wore a halo of fire. Both traditions are represented in the custom of a young girl wearing a crown of lighted candles and serving a breakfast of cardamom buns. Public ceremonies and parties are held later in the day, offering cheerful music and baked treats to raise winter spirits. Even in North America, it makes sense; my Swedish American wife, Julie, lights candles and leads the family in a dance around the table before we sit down to a specially prepared meal.

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