It is hard to believe that as of sunset tonight (which has already happened in many places) Ridván will be over. I have had so much fun participating in the first ever Walking Through the Garden of Ridván series with Bahá’í Mom Blogs and getting ideas for how to celebrate this special holiday with my boys.
Here is a look back on all the fun things that the participating bloggers shared during this 12 day festival. For a full list of the posts, see our main page.
“Consider these nightingales. So great is their love for these roses, that sleepless from dusk till dawn, they warble their melodies and commune with burning passion with the object of their adoration. How then can those who claim to be afire with the rose-like beauty of the Beloved chose to sleep?”
– Bahá’u’lláh to His companions in the Ridván Garden, as related by Nabíl (quoted in God Passes By, p. 153).
“Hear those birds, Mommy?” It’s just before dawn, and Monkey has crawled into our bed. Just outside our window, the birds are singing their greeting to the sun as it begins its slow rise over the treetops.
We love listening to the birds in the morning, in that magical time suspended delicately between the dark of night and the brightness of the coming day. In those few moments, not yet burdened by the chores of the day but full of the promise of the new dawn, we lie in bed and listen.
For Bahá’ís, this time of year brings to mind one bird in particular: the nightingale. This bird, known for its plaintive melodies, was used frequently by Bahá’u’lláh as a metaphor for a person in love with God. The nightingale is a prominent figure in Persian poetry, in which it is characterized by its sweet melody, sung to its beloved, the rose. In a similar way, people in love with God will not rest but instead spend all their hours singing praises to their Beloved.
Here is a beautiful Bahá’í song that I grew up with that uses the nightingale metaphor to talk about Bahá’u’lláh. If you’d like to play it yourself, here is the sheet music.
We set up a table with the materials, including stickers and markers to decorate the birds. I also found some colorful streamers to use for the tails. If you look closely, you will see one of our ladybug cupcakes on the table!
It was a simple craft, but at the end the kids had something really cute and fun to play with. Monkey still loves making the wings flap!
By the time this Ridván rolled around, however, Monkey really wasn’t very interested in crafts, so I tried a different approach. First, we listened to this recording of a nightingale’s song, which Monkey asked me to play several times. It really is beautiful!
Then we sat in our Ridván tent and did some sensory play. This was so much fun! It would also make a great activity for a group.
In case you were worried, the robots didn’t miss out on the fun! In fact, play was suspended for several minutes as Monkey carefully rolled them – one by one – in from the other room.
Beforehand I had gathered some materials related to the holiday, such as tea bags, rose petals, a flower from our yard, and a small rose made of tissue paper.
I covered the bowl with the beautiful blue scarf we are using as the “river” around our tent. I had Monkey reach his hand under the scarf and try to identify the objects in the bowl. It was hard! Especially considering that I hadn’t prepped him at all for the kinds of things that would be in the bowl.
I then had him close his eyes and smell the tea and the flowers. Afterwards, we examined the flower petals and noted the differences between the fresh petals and the dried ones. We then cut open the tea bag to play with the dried leaves. It wasn’t the first time Monkey had seen loose tea, but it was the first time I had let him play with it!
I think his favorite part, though, was our “taste test.” It is amazing how difficult it can be to guess a flavor when it is completely out of context! When I put some sugar on his tongue, for example, Monkey told me it tasted “spicy.” He was surprised to see what it was! Honey, though, he guessed instantly, probably because he frequently has it on its own.
Once Baby woke up from his nap, I let him play with some of the objects as well. As soon as I held out the first one, his eyes got huge, and he started cooing, so I know he was excited!
**Please note: Sensory play with infants should be strictly supervised for safety reasons.**
When doing sensory play with babies, be sure to use larger objects than you would with older children. In addition to the choking hazard, it is also more fun for them. Baby Monkey quickly became frustrated with small objects, as they were difficult for him to grab and hold onto. Of course, don’t give them anything with sharp edges or points, and be very careful that they don’t put anything in their mouths, which of course they will try to do!
But if you follow precautions and good common sense, sensory play with babies is extremely rewarding. Baby and I had so much fun, and it was a great way for him to connect to the holiday as well.
There are very few storybooks about the Ridván Festival, particularly for young children, so I decided to create a felt board to use to tell the story to Monkey. I had a lot of fun making it, and felt boards are such a wonderful way to bring stories to life for little ones.
Monkey’s summary of the story: “One day, Bahá’u’lláh go garden, see friends there. Garden have lots roses.”
I first came across felt boards (often called “flannel boards”) in a busy bag swap with my mom’s group. One of the busy bags we got had a small flannel board and the felt shapes for several simple pictures, such as a snowman. Another contained basic shapes for children to invent their own pictures. Monkey adored making and re-making pictures with his felt shapes, so I thought this would be a great, hands-on way for him to engage with the story.
To make the felt board, I cut out a piece of cardboard from an old diaper box and laid a piece of flannel over one side. (I chose a light blue for the sky). I then folded the edges of the flannel around to the back of the cardboard and glued it on tight using craft glue. It was much simpler than I had expected!
Cutting out all the felt pieces took much longer, but these story boards can be as simple or as complicated as you want. I decided to do four basic scenes, all of which were fairly simple – except for all of those roses! We’ll see how long all those little pieces lasts 🙂
Here is our story:
Bahâ’u’llâh and His companions were forced to leave their homes. They had to travel a long, long way to get to their new home. Before they left on their trip, they stopped at a beautiful garden called the Ridvân Garden. To get there, they had to cross a river on a boat. (Okay, okay, I’m pretty sure Bahâ’u’llâh didn’t use a cute little sailboat like this, but there are only so many shapes I can cut out of felt!)
When they crossed the river they arrived in a beautiful garden. It was full of roses. Bahâ’u’llâh named the garden “Ridván,” which means “paradise” because it was so beautiful.
Roses in the Tent
Bahâ’u’llâh and His friends put up tents to sleep in. Every morning they would sit on cushions in Bahâ’u’llâh’s tent to drink their tea. The gardeners knew Bahâ’u’llâh loved roses, so they would bring lots of roses to Him. There were so many that when the friends sat down on their cushions, they couldn’t see each other over the pile of roses!
Humanity as a Rose Garden
While He was staying in the garden, Bahâ’u’llâh told His friends something very important. (When I asked Monkey what this message was, he said it was “’bout robots.” Um…close! Okay, not really 🙂 )
He said that we are all like the roses in the garden and God is like the sun. The sun helps the roses grow, just like God helps our souls to grow and be strong. Bahâ’u’llâh said that everyone – no matter where they were from or how different they looked – was part of the same rose garden and got light from the same sun.
Hope you enjoyed our story! Have you ever used a felt board with your kids?
“The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.”
Yesterday we were able to celebrate the beginning of the festival of Ridván with our local Bahá’í community. As described in this beautiful introductory post from Creative World of Varya, Ridván commemorates the time when Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, made the bold claim that He was the Messenger of God for today, come to usher in an age of peace and prosperity for all people.
When Bahá’u’lláh made this announcement in 1863 in the beautiful Ridván Garden, He was not just speaking to His companions, or to the inhabitants of nearby Baghdad, or even to the people of Persia, His native land. He was announcing to all the peoples of the world that they were one human family, that true peace was not only possible but inevitable, and that equality and justice could be the guiding principles of a global civilization based on both spiritual and material development.
Today, there are followers of Bahá’u’lláh all over the world, and though they come from many different cultures, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds, they are all united in their love for Bahá’u’lláh and for His teachings of world unity and peace.
And so as Bahá’ís all over the world commemorate the start of the Ridván Festival, I thought it would be fun to get a flavor of how communities in different parts of the globe celebrate this festival.
Our Ridvan tent from last year
For myself, growing up in different parts of the US (North Carolina and New Jersey), I have fond memories of putting on plays with other children or having picnics in the park. Here are some glimpses of how other families and communities celebrate this beautiful time:
Sarih: “Over the years we have done a variety of Ridván related activities with the kids, garden parties, treasure hunts, constructing Ridván prayer tents, picnics in rose gardens, stories, decorating with flowers etc.”
Honey of Honey’s Quilling (Malaysia): “Here we have the usual gathering with devotionals and an activity developed by the task force.”
Talieh (Northern Virginia/Alexandria): “I am planning something special for the children’s class I teach. Last year we built a tent in the middle of the room and marked the outline of an island around it. Inside the tent were some cushions, a bright table cloth on the floor serving as a carpet, and in the middle lots of roses and a picture of the Garden of Ridván in Haifa. The children said their prayers in a different part of the room and after a brief introduction to Ridván, were invited to cross the river and enter the garden. Once in the tent, the children listened to the story about Ridván, and then we drank very light tea together. It was simple, but hopefully special way to celebrate. I’d like to do something similar this year, with a few additions such as a song about Ridván and so on.
Jubilee (Austin, Texas): “We always have a big party on the first day with bouncy house, snow cones, music etc. outside of the Bahá’í center. The newly elected LSA [Local Spiritual Assembly] members serve BBQ. It is the kid’s favorite holiday, every time we have a holy day they ask if it is the ‘one with the bouncy house’.”
Felicia of Guilt to Great (New Mexico): “Our children have been learning about the garden of Ridván–one week they made flowers, the next boats, and the next nightingales. It is a tangible approach to grasping the different elements that made the garden special.”
Azarnoush of A toddler, his mum and their recipes (from Bolivia): “I remember once mum was in charge of the decorations for the celebration and she made a huge (seemed huge anyway) colorful tent made of long plastic strands over the garden at the Bahá’í Centre and then made lots and lots of paper flowers and put them on the grass everywhere. It was fantastic and super festive.”
Pamela of Gems of Oneness (currently in Ghana): “We have performed a skit every year, wherever we’ve lived, where the kids make some kind of tent with a candle inside representing the Light of Bahá’u’lláh. they have memorized the simple version of the story, each taking a part and reciting a quote as well to depict the story. they try to make the 4 rows with paper flowers lined up to the tent. they offer flowers to the inside of the tent, trying to pile them high enough to show how the people couldn’t see each other. they have served tea and taken a rose (sometimes real ones) from the inside of the tent to give to people in the audience. sometimes it’s very humble and shared only with a few people; other times it’s been performed in front of 100’s. each year the version of the story changes depending on circumstances and resources. we sing as many joyful songs about Bahá’u’lláh as possible, too!”
For more glimpses of how Ridván is celebrated around the world, visit this Ridván Pinterest board from Enable Me to Grow.
How do you celebrate special days with your little ones?
This post is part of the series Walking Through the Garden of Ridván. Each day during the Ridván festival (April 21 – May 2), a different blogger will share the story of the festival and a craft or activity to help bring it to life for little ones. For a full schedule, visit the series main page.
Happy Ridván! I am pleased to announce the beginning of a series from some of the women behind Bahá’í Mom Blogs, designed to tell the story of this festival and introduce some ideas for celebrating it with our little ones.
This afternoon a friend and I co-hosted our Baha’i community’s celebration of the Twelfth Day of Ridvan. We worked together to create a short program with music, readings, and a story for children about Baha’u’llah‘s stay in the Ridvan Garden.
Our butterfly cake (Spoiler alert! Strawberry on the loose!)
While my friend provided most of the refreshments, I offered to bake a treat that I remembered from my own childhood – a butterfly cake. I borrowed a recipe for a vanilla cake (vegan!) with cream cheese frosting from my sister and started trolling the internet for ideas on how to make a butterfly-shaped cake. While my own mother’s method used a 9 x 13 sheet pan, I wasn’t sure the pan I had would work. So instead, I opted to do a healthier version of this cake, which utilizes a simple round baking pan. Since this would result in a rather small, one layer cake, I decided to double the recipe and make cupcakes as well.
My dear sister suggested that I turn the cupcakes into ladybugs, a suggestion I nearly dismissed out of hand, since that seemed a little too, well, out-of-the-box creative for someone like me, who likes to follow tutorials and recipes line by line. Luckily, she persuaded me, and after a bit of experimentation, the results were quite lovely!
First to be tackled was the cake itself. After the cake had completed cooled, I cut it in half and reversed the halves, so that the two semi-circles were facing away from each other. Per the tutorial, I carved a notch in each and shaped them a bit so they looked more like wings. Now I just needed to find a replacement for the candy used in the tutorial for the body, since I thought the cake would be sweet enough without it.
The extra cupcakes came in handy here – I just cut the sides off two of them and lined them up between the wings to form the body. Now it was really looking like a butterfly!
Finally, it was time to make the frosting. I was adamant about avoiding artificial food coloring, so I did some research about natural food dyes. This post is a great guide to using natural foods to create dyes for Easter eggs and for frosting cakes. I had a bag of frozen berries, so I decided to do a pink/purple color, using the juice from mashed blueberries and blackberries.
The only problem is that the post uses a specific frosting recipe, so that the extra juice from the berries doesn’t create a frosting that is too runny. Since I was using my own recipe, however, I wasn’t quite sure how to modify it to avoid this, and so even though I did not use very much juice (hence the light color), I was still left with frosting that ran right off the cake.
I know you are distracted by all that runny frosting – but look at the beautiful platter my cousin made for us!
The frosting was already so sweet that I didn’t want to add more powdered sugar, which I knew would thicken it up, so instead I used one of the ingredients in powdered sugar – cornstarch! It didn’t change the flavor at all and did help with the consistency. Still, in the end, I had to put the whole thing in the refrigerator for about an hour before I could finish frosting it, and even then the strawberry slices I added as a final decoration tended to slide off the cake.
I still was pleased with the final results, although next time I will tinker a bit more with the recipe to make frosting easier.
On to the cupcakes!
From this post I got the idea to use beetroot powder for the red coloring for my cupcake frosting. After doing a little more research into how to use it in frosting and baking, I was ready to get started. (If you’re not sure where to get beetroot powder, check the bulk bins at your local coop). The powder was much easier to work with than the berry juice had been and gave me a frosting with the perfect consistency. Next time I may just go with this for the butterfly cake as well!
As for the rest of the decorations, I was really on my own, since the many tutorials and photos I found for ladybug cupcakes used candy and other artificial ingredients. For the spots, I opted for raisins, and, at my sister’s suggestion, used blackberries for the ladybug heads. They were adorable! I just wish I had had fresh blackberries on hand: although I drained the frozen berries as they were defrosting, they still had a bit of trouble staying in place because they were so much squishier than the fresh ones would have been.
So, many lessons learned! Watch out, community: when next Ridvan comes around, a new and improved butterfly cake and her ladybug friends may make another appearance!
Many thanks to my mother and sister for their consultations on these recipes!
“Dignified” is not a word I typically associated with toddlers. Yet it is the word I keep coming back to as I prepare to celebrate the festival of Ridvan with my little Monkey.
The 12 days of Ridvan, which begin on April 21, are the holiest of Baha’i holidays, and I want to make them special for my little boy, who is just beginning to develop an awareness of the rhythm of the seasons and the joy of holidays.
So I have decided to focus on recreating elements of the Ridvan Garden where Baha’u’llah visited before his exile from Baghdad: the tent where He stayed, the flowers brought to him every morning by the gardeners, and – especially – the sense of wonder and awe about the significance of His stay.
This is by no means an original idea. I first heard of it years ago, when a dear friend set up a tent in her daughter’s room during Ridvan, based on a lesson in Brilliant Star magazine.
We don’t have a suitable tent, so I’m planning on draping a sheet over our living room table. Inside, I’m going to try to create a dignified atmosphere by laying out a beautiful, handwoven table runner given to me while I was in Belize years ago. On it will go a basket full of tissue paper flowers.
The flowers are important to me because one of my favorite stories as a child was that during Baha’u’llah’s stay in the Ridvan Garden, the gardeners became so enamored of Him that they used to bring armfuls of flowers for His tent, so many that when His guests sat down to have tea, they couldn’t see each other over the mound of flowers!
To celebrate this story, I’m going to make some flowers out of tissue paper & pipe cleaners, based on this tutorial. That way, my little Monkey and I can drink our tea inside the tent, over our own (much smaller!) mound of flowers.
To add to the effect of being in a garden, we also still have hanging around the living room these beautiful flower chains my sister made out of craft foam. Because she used something like fishing wire to string them together, they have the effect of seem to float in the air – The look on my little Monkey’s face the first morning he saw them was priceless!
We originally hung them up for Ayyam-i-Ha, but since they are so perfect for Ridvan as well, we will keep them up through the end of the festival.
What else do we have planned for Ridvan this year? I am really looking forward to going strawberry picking with our community on a small, organic farm, an activity I know my little boy will also love.
In addition, a friend and I are hosting the celebration of the final (twelfth) day of Ridvan, which commemorates when Baha’u’llah left the Ridvan Garden. Our craft for kids will be focused on nightingales. There were many nightingales in the Ridvan Garden, and Baha’u’llah used these nocturnal birds as a beautiful metaphor for lovers of God who cannot sleep because they are singing God’s praises. Based on this idea, we are going to help the kids make and decorate nightingale puppets out of cardstock and ribbons, as shown in this amazing Core Curriculum Lesson Planning Guide (bird craft begins on page 24).
So that’s the plan, friends! How will it all turn out?? Stay tuned!