There are nine annual Bahá'í holy days plus an annual fast. With the exception of New Year, Bahá'í holidays commemorate major events in the lives of the founders of the Bahá'í Faith. On holy days, Bahá'ís do not work and this is considered a sacrifice.
Two further special days are celebrated, but they are not considered holy days in that work is not suspended. These are both associated with Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's eldest son and appointed successor. They are not celebrated as holy days because he held himself to be nothing more than his Father's servant, and would never have agreed to anything that put him on an equal footing with Bahá'u'lláh.
The Bahá'í holidays and special days are as follows:
- March 2-21 - Nineteen Day Fast
- March 21 - Bahá'í New Year
- April 21 - First Day of the Ridván Festival
- April 29 - Ninth Day of the Ridván Festival
- May 2 - Twelfth Day of the Ridván Festival
- May 23 - Declaration of the Báb
- May 29 - Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh
- July 9 - Martyrdom of the Báb
- October 20 - Birth of the Báb
- November 12 - Birth of Bahá'u'lláh
- November 26 - Day of the Covenant (work not suspended)
- November 28 - Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá (work not suspended)
The Nineteen Day Fast (March 2-21)
The Nineteen Day Fast was instituted by Bahá'u'lláh. He stated that if capable, Bahá'ís between the ages of 15 and 70 should fast 19 days a year, going without food or drink from sunrise to sunset.
The annual fast takes place during the Bahá'í month of Alá (meaning Loftiness), which is from March 2 to 21 on the Gregorian calendar. The month of Alá immediately precedes the Bahá'í new year. The period of fasting is therefore viewed as a time of spiritual preparation and regeneration for a new year's activities.
The Nineteen Day Fast brings together the Bahá'ís of local community for prayer, reading of scriptures, discussion of community activities, and enjoyment of one another's company.
Shoghi Effendi explained the Nineteen Day Fast this way:
It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires. (Directives of the Guardian, 1973).
Naw-Rúz - Bahá'í New Year (March 21)
Bahá'ís celebrate New Year's Day on March 21, the vernal equinox. This date has been celebrated as the New Year in Persia for thousands of years. For Bahá'ís, New Year is preceeded by the Nineteen Day Fast, a time of spiritual introspection.
First Day of Ridván - Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh (April 21)
The Festival of Ridván is a 12-day period commemorating Bahá'u'lláh's declaration of his mission on the eve of his departure from Baghdád for Constantinople in 1863. The first day commemorates his arrival in the Najíbíyyih Garden, where his declaration took place. Local and National Spiritual Assemblies are elected on this day. Commemorations of this day should be held at about 3:00pm. Work is suspended on this holiday.
Ninth Day of Ridván (April 29)
This holiday commemorates the arrival of members of Bahá'u'lláh's family in the Najíbíyyih Garden. Work should be suspended on this holiday.
Twelfth Day of Ridván (May 2)
This holiday commemorates the departure of Bahá'u'lláh for Constantinople and brings to a close the Festival of Ridván. Work should be suspended on this holiday.
Declaration of the Báb (May 23)
The Báb declared his mission to Mullá Husayn on this day in 1844, marking the inception of the Bahá'í era. Commemorations should be held at about two hours after sunset. Work should be suspended on this holiday.
Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh (May 29)
Bahá'u'lláh passed from this life on this date in 1892. Commemorations should be held at 3am. Work should be suspended on this holiday.
Martyrdom of the Báb (July 9)
The Báb was executed by firing squad on this date in 1850. Commemorations should be held at noon. Work should be suspended on this holiday.
Birth of the Báb (October 20)
This holiday commemorates the birth of the Báb in 1819. Work should be suspended on this holiday.
Birth of Bahá'u'lláh (November 12)
This holiday commemorates the birth of Bahá'u'lláh in 1817. Work should be suspended on this holiday.
Day of the Covenant (November 26)
'Abdu'l-Bahá did not permit the celebration of his birthday, as it falls on May 23, the same day as the Declaration of the Báb. However, after receiving numerous requests, he designated this day for the Bahá'ís to celebrate his life. Work is not suspended on this day.
Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá (November 28)
This day commemorates the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on this day in 1921. Commemorations should be held at 1am. Work is not suspended on this day.