The Bahá’í Feast
The centrepiece of Bahá’í community life is the Nineteen-Day Feast. The Feast’s occurrence every 19 days derives from the Bahá’í calendar, which consists of 19 months, each of which has 19 days. Bahá’ís are enjoined to observe this monthly gathering, which is open to both adults and children. The Feast consists of three parts: spiritual devotion, administrative consultation, and social fellowship. As such, the Feast combines religious worship with grass-roots governance and social enjoyment, embracing the elements at the very base of society.
The programme of the Feast is adaptable to a wide variety of cultural and social needs, an important feature in as multicultural a country as Canada. Music is often a component in the programme and often reflects the Feast’s geographic and cultural setting. In the southern United States, for example, Feast might well feature Gospel-style music, while in Asia the songs might be pentatonic.
The word “feast” might seem to imply that a large meal will be served. That is not necessarily the case. While food and beverages are usually served, the term is meant to suggest that the community should enjoy a “spiritual feast” of worship, companionship, and unity. Bahá’u’lláh stressed the importance of Bahá’ís gathering every 19 days, “to bind hearts together,”1 even if nothing more than water is served.
During the devotional programme, selections of Bahá’í prayers and writings, and sometimes scriptures of other religions, are read aloud and meditated upon.
The administrative part of the Feast includes reports of the activities of Bahá’í communities near and far, consultation on the affairs of the Faith in one’s own community, and reflection on local progress. Community members have the opportunity to become more familiar with the guidance and writings of the Faith and to make suggestions to the Local Spiritual Assembly. The consultations at Feast are of utmost importance, as it is by this method that every individual participates in the affairs of the worldwide Bahá’í community. The consultations allow every member a voice in community affairs and thus make the Feast an “arena of democracy at the very root of society.”2
As for the social part of the Feast, this is the time for comradeship, hospitality, and love. Carefully selected music, uplifting talks, and children’s presentations are all examples of outlets of creativity which, when dignified and joyful, can bring this part of the Feast to life.
2. From a letter from the Universal House of Justice to the followers of Bahá’u’lláh, 27 August 1989.