A reader asked that I talk a little about Bahá’í traditions. This is actually an interesting question because the answer may be surprising.
Bahá’ís, by the teachings of our faith, do not have traditions. Well, at least not in the more Christian sense of something like setting up a nativity or using an Advent calendar.
Each individual believer and each community are free to approach devotion and worship as we see fit. There are very few “supposed to’s” in the faith. There is a daily prayer, but you can choose from 3. There is the 19 day feast, but each community has its own flavor. There are holy days to observe, but again, each community has its own way of celebrating.
I’ve been thinking about this – do we have traditions anyway? The only thing coming to mind is a 4-5 day period every year called Ayyam-i-Ha during which we gather as communities and occasionally exchange small, hand-made gifts and participate in service projects. Even so, everyone sort of has their own spin on it.
Bahá’ís believe that traditions can detract from the meaning of the activity or holy day. In a way, this makes a lot of sense. The crazy over-commercialization of Christmas has somewhat hijacked the solemn holiness of the birth of the son of God, wouldn’t you say? (And I say that with the full understanding that there are many who do not buy into the crazy and still observe the day as a holy day.)
We also believe that following traditions can hinder the independent investigation of truth, which is a huge part of being Bahá’í.
And while I understand the “why” of our teaching about tradition, there are definitely times I miss tradition – recalling precious memories with each ornament hung on a Christmas tree, getting dressed up for Easter mass, dining by the light of the candles in our Advent wreath. We do choose to participate in some of these traditions with our families, though as Rowenna grows we plan to spend a good deal of time talking about what it all means and making a clear distinction between sharing in the traditions of our families and practicing our own faith.