Do Baha’is celebrate Christmas? This question is a bit of a tricky one to answer because Christmas means different things to different people.
Based on the understanding of Christmas as a commemoration of the birth of Christ, the day is clearly of significance to Baha’is, who believe that Christ was a Manifestation of God. Baha’is do not, however, celebrate Christmas within their communities as one of the Baha’i Holy Days.
While the principle of progressive revelation means that Baha’is believe in the divine origin of the other world religions (and consequently, the significance of each of their Holy Days), the Baha’i Faith is an independent religion with its own Holy Days. Baha’is – while believing in the divine origins of all other world religions – follow the teachings of Baha’u'llah, whom we believe to be the latest in the line of Messengers sent from God with laws to address the needs of humanity in this day and age.
That being said, however, Baha’is are free to participate in the celebrations observed by their friends and family who adhere to other religions. Christmas is a tricky one because of what it has come to represent in much of Western society – the true meaning of Christmas is, unfortunately, often lost amidst the Christmas tree decorations, Santa-and-elf motifs and endless Christmas sales advertisements.However, as many Christians pause to celebrate the birth and life of Jesus, Baha’is too can stop to reflect on the significance of this day. The Writings speak beautifully about the life and station of Jesus. Baha’u'llah says:
Know thou that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its evidences, as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee. The deepest wisdom which the sages have uttered, the profoundest learning which any mind hath unfolded, the arts which the ablest hands have produced, the influence exerted by the most potent of rulers, are but manifestations of the quickening power released by His transcendent, His all-pervasive, and resplendent Spirit.
We testify that when He came into the world, He shed the splendor of His glory upon all created things. Through Him the leper recovered from the leprosy of perversity and ignorance. Through Him, the unchaste and wayward were healed. Through His power, born of Almighty God, the eyes of the blind were opened, and the soul of the sinner sanctified… We bear witness that through the power of the Word of God every leper was cleansed, every sickness was healed, every human infirmity was banished. He it is Who purified the world. Blessed is the man who, with a face beaming with light, hath turned towards Him.
This passage is close to my heart because I was raised as a Christian and was first taught to know and worship God through the teachings of Jesus. I often find it hard to focus on the spiritual aspects of Christmas because of the heavy cultural significance it has acquired.
But these words of Baha’u'llah remind us of the real significance of the life of Jesus. The Christmas story is an exciting story in the religious history of the world. The birth of Jesus marked the fulfillment of Jewish prophecies about a new Manifestation of God. It marked the beginning of a very special childhood made distinct because of the innate wisdom that all Manifestations have, even as children. It heralded the life of yet another Manifestation of God who would suffer great tribulations and suffering to bring humanity towards God.
The life and ministry of Jesus transformed the lives of individuals – both in His lifetime and for centuries after – as well as humanity as a whole. His love and sacrifice infused the world with a new spirit. Blessed, indeed, are those who recognize the immense gift of His divine teachings.
A very blessed Christmas to all our Christian friends!