The other day I was talking with my eldest son-in-law, a Lutheran, about how so many faiths have their own calendars, but similar rituals and practices. And the followers celebrate their faith's new year as well as their national, secular new year.
For many of us, that is preceded by a period of fasting to rid our souls of the previous years’ accumulated “garbage.”
For Christians, it’s Lent, in preparation for Easter’s spiritual resurrection of their personal faith. Baha’is fast for a time preceding our new year (March 21). Muslims have Ramadan, a personal and communal abstention from the things of the world that distract the soul’s focus. For Jews, Yom Kippur fills that requirement. And many other faiths have their fasts, followed by feasts of one kind or another.
And of course, secularists are glad not to fast – except to lose weight – but many choose the new year to review and make resolutions for change.
Another widely held tradition is a sort of “blast before the fast” ... a Mardi Gras of sorts. Baha’is call it Ayyam-i-Ha – days of parties, exchanging gifts, doing charitable deeds, a time for expressing love and sharing and having fun.
Then recess is done, playtime is over, serious study time is come. We forsake some worldly pleasures in order to concentrate/meditate on the changes that God wants us to make in our lives. Sound familiar?
Should we – whatever our faith connection – let the hunger pangs of fasting remind us that there are many hungry ones in our world, maybe even in our neighborhood. Hungry for peace, hungry for freedom, and the ordinary needs of this world. And God, through all his messengers (of whom Jesus, Muhammad, Abraham, Baha’u’llah, Buddha and others) have given us the ways to heed and act on their message.
Happy new year.
Janet Tanaka is an individual member of Interfaith Works and a member of the Baha’i Community of Thurston County East.
Perspective is coordinated by Interfaith Works in cooperation with The Olympian. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Interfaith Works or The Olympian.