Today is the last day of Ayyam-i-ha, the four (five in leap years) day Baha’i holiday of festivities, gift giving, and charity work.
Ayyam-i-ha has some similarities with shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras, as it is a period of celebration before the beginning of a period of abstinence. Instead of Lent, Ayyam-i-ha is followed by the 19 day Baha’i fast, in which healthy adults abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset.
Ayyam-i-ha is also comparable to Christmas, as it is celebrated with gift giving, and acts of charity. Luckily commercialism has not yet cottoned on to Ayyam-i-ha, and tried to steal the true meaning away.
I usually mark Ayyam-i-ha by cleaning my house and treating myself to fresh flowers to decorate it with. I cook all of Tim’s favourite foods as my gift to him. I also bake cookies and other treats, and take them to the neighbors and to friends. Every year I pick a charity to make a monetary donation to, and a charity to donate goods and time to. Most years I throw a party to thank the people in my life for all they have done for me.
This year things will be a little different. Sadly, in addition to all the usual charities that need money, support, and goods, there is a specific cause that desperately needs donations. While I tidy my house and fill vases with flowers, hundreds of thousands of people in Christchurch are homeless, their houses too damaged to live in. This year I’m focussing my Ayyam-i-ha efforts on Christchurch. Some of it will be simple and not that interesting, but one brilliant person had a fantastic idea which combines celebrations and charity.
The Great Sunday Bake Off organising people in Wellington to make delicious baked goods, and if they aren’t handy in the kitchen, to donate toys and canned food. On Monday they took the ferry and drove down to Christchurch with a huge van full of all the yumminess to give to people in Christchurch. Isn’t it the loveliest idea? When I am upset there is nothing more comforting and cheering than home baked goods. The opportunity also allows us, the bakers, to give something of ourselves: our favourite muffins, the cookies that our mother let us make when we had sleepovers, our grandmothers famous custard slice. Whatever it is, a lot of love, hope, prayers and well wishes will be travelling in that van, along with the sugared goodies. They extra goodies were sold in a bake sale, and (matched by donations) raised $14,000 for relief efforts.
I made ambrosia macaroons (ah, the deliciousness! I could eat a whole container myself!), and plum cake. I’m sure there will be people who are gluten intolerant in need of cheering up.
Despite the tragedy that is unfolding, I won’t be foregoing all of the festivities that usually surround Ayyam-i-ha. I think it is important to celebrate all the good that has happened this year, and to thank all the people who have already made my world a brighter place to be in.
As I celebrate, I’ll be praying that next year, come Ayyam-i-ha, everyone in Christchurch, in New Zealand, and around the world, will be able to look back at the year that was and celebrate all the wonderful things that happened to them.
Happy Ayyam-i-ha to everyone reading this.