July 27, 2014The FastComments Off on My First Fast: A Baha’i Perspective | Interfaith Ramadan Series
Lost in the noise of media hype and extremists of every stripe is the undeniable fact that there are many commonalities among the religions of the world. In recognition of this truth, my friend Sarah from Hotchpotch Hijabi in Italy has created a wonderful Interfaith Ramadan series, as a way to bring together people of faith, despite our differences.
I am proud to be a part of such an amazing endeavor with this essay on when I first participated in the Bahá’í Fast as a teenager. Be prepared for some teenage melodrama mixed in with a touch of enlightenment:
From March 2 to March 20, adult Bahá’ís in good health observe a fast in preparation for our new year (Naw Rúz) on March 21. Today I am so pleased to share with you this post from my friend Chelsea, of Enable Me to Grow about an activity to share the spirit of the Fast with young children. For more ideas, you can also see our Fast Challenge Bag and follow our Bahá’í Parenting board on Pinterest.
Several years ago, I brainstormed some ideas about family traditions we might like to start during the Fast. I wanted it to be something the kid(s) could look forward to that makes the Fast a special time, and also some way they can be more involved in the Fast before they can physically fast themselves (at age 15). Here is an easy project that only took a couple nights to complete.
First of all, the inspiration for this project was from a lovely tradition where the family lit a candle for each night of the Fast (one candle on the first night, two on the second, and so on), so that by the last night there was a lovely arrangement of candles to mark the end of the Fast and the beginning of Naw Rúz.
I loved this idea. However, seeing as it doesn’t get dark during Fasting time until maybe 9 pm (and my son goes to bed at 7), I decided to modify it a bit and make a “Fasting Tree” using flowers instead of candles.
The day before the Fast starts, we collect sticks for the “tree”, which we put in a vase on the mantlepeice. Then during family prayers on each morning of the Fast, we place one flower ornament on the tree so that by Naw Rúz there are 19 flowers.
I used store bought flowers in the interest of time, although felted flowers would also be lovely. I used these Frangipanis, which reminded me of being at the Shrine of the Báb, since there was a Frangipani tree nearby.
I simply cut up the flowers as necessary and used green and yellow pipe cleaners I had already to make an easy way for them to attach to the sticks.
In order to help remind us of the purpose of the Fast, I added a short quotation about the Fast on a leaf for each flower so that we can discuss the quote on the ornament during family prayers. For a full list of the quotations, see the end of this blog post.
I cut the leaves out of construction paper. To make them more sturdy you could laminate them or use packing tape on each side. Then I punched a hole in order for the leaf to attach on to the pipe cleaner. I attached the leaves which came with the flowers back onto the pipe cleaner, so that it will help the paper leaf stay on.
Here’s the finished box of flowers.
By Naw Rúz we will have a lovely tree full of flowers!
Quotations used for our Fasting Tree:
“We have ordained obligatory prayer and fasting so that all may by these means draw nigh unto God”
“We have forbidden men from following whatsoever might cause them to stray from the Truth”
“We…have commanded them to observe that which will draw them nearer unto Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Loving.”
“Cling firmly to obligatory prayer and fasting.”
“Verily, the religion of God is like unto heaven; fasting is its sun, and obligatory prayer is its moon”
“Observe ye the commandments of God for love of His beauty”
“We beseech God to assist His people that they may observe the most great and exalted Fast”
“protect one’s eye from beholding whatever is forbidden”
“withhold one’s self from food, drink and whatever is not of Him”
“Fast ye for the sake of your Lord, the Mighty, the Most High.”
“Restrain yourselves from sunrise to sunset.”
“Well is it with the one who fulfilleth My decrees for the love of My Beauty”
“We, verily, have commanded all to observe the Fast in these days as a bounty on Our part”
“His Law is a fortress unto you, could ye but understand.”
“Cling ye to the cord of God’s laws”
“fasting and obligatory prayer constitute the two mightiest pillars of God’s holy Law”
“Fasting and obligatory prayer are as two wings to man’s life.”
“Act ye in accordance with what ye have been commanded in the Book.”
“It is not for anyone to exceed the limits laid down by God and His law, nor should anyone follow his own idle imaginings.”
Chelsea Lee Smith is a mother of two and is passionate about empowering families with tools for character education so that they can contribute to making the world a better place. She blogs at Enable Me To Grow offering activities, ideas and resources for character building and more.
The Bahá’í Fast is a time for individuals to refocus and recharge, as they turn inwards and work on building their relationship to God. The actual fasting is only required of those fifteen years or older, in good health, and without other significant physical demands, such as manual labor or travel. Yet anyone can participate in the intensive reflection and meditation that characterizes the Fast.
When fasting, it is easy for me to remember to pause and reflect. After all, my stomach always reminds me that it is the Fast! Plus I have a surprising amount of extra time when I am not eating or preparing food during the day that I can use for extra prayer or meditation.
As a nursing mother, however, I will not be fasting this year, and obviously Monkey won’t be either, so I wanted something to help us remember to focus on reflection and service.
Thus was born the Family Challenge Bag! The idea is simple: each morning during the Fast we will pick one card out of the bag. (I used a jewelry bag, but any drawstring bag will work). On the card will be written our challenge for the day, such as saying a prayer for someone, working on ways to say “please” and “thank you,” or choosing a book or toy to donate to charity.
You can download our Family Challenge Cards and use as is or edit the document to suit your own family. Older children, for example, could take on more complex challenges, and a family celebrating Lent might incorporate activities involving their church.
The Family Challenge Bag is a concrete tool to help young children especially to focus on spiritual values during special times of reflection and service to others.
How do you help your children (and yourself!) focus on spiritual values?
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