A handy reference guide for bicentenary preparations
What kinds of events are suitable? Who should we invite? When should events be held? How should we prepare ourselves? These and other practical questions about the bicentenary of the Birth of the Báb are answered below.
Also see Resources for bicentenary celebrations: 29-30 October 2019 including films, books from Bahá'í Distribution Service, booklets in digital format, logo, messages and news.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Would it be appropriate to hold a single event to celebrate both Birthdays?
“In relation to the Twin Holy Birthdays, the beloved Guardian, in a letter written on his behalf to a National Spiritual Assembly, advised that refraining from work and gathering for observances are required on both days. Therefore, holding the celebrations of the Twin Holy Days immediately before and after sunset on the same Gregorian date would not be in keeping with the spirit of the guidance set out above.” (1)
“But the most distinguishing feature of these bicentenaries will be a tremendous flourishing of activity by Bahá’ís and their friends in local communities.” (2)
2. On what dates do we celebrate these Twin Holy Days?
In 2019, the 200th anniversary of the Birth of the Báb falls on October 29, 2019 (from sunset on 28 October to sunset on 29 October); the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh is on October 30, 2019 (from sunset on 29 October to sunset on 30 October). Please note that these are Holy Days on which work should be suspended. A letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi states: “He wishes also to stress the fact that, according to our Bahá’í laws, work is forbidden on our Nine Holy Days. Believers who have independent businesses or shops should refrain from working on these days. Those who are in government employ should, on religious grounds, make an effort to be excused from work; all believers, whoever their employers, should do likewise.” (3)
3. Is it required that the Bicentenary for the Birth of the Báb be celebrated on the day of the Holy Day or is there some scheduling flexibility?
While it is encouraged that various events to celebrate the bicentenary of the Birth of the Báb are scheduled on other days in close proximity to October 29, such events would not take the place of the Holy Day programmes that should be held on October 29 and 30 to commemorate each Birthday.
4. Whom should we invite?
As indicated in the 29 December 2015 message of the House of Justice, these Holy Days should be viewed as special opportunities for the friends to reach out to the widest possible cross-section of society…” (2) to bring friends and acquaintances into contact with the life of the community:
Occupation or field of study
Community: children’s classes, junior youth groups, devotionals, study circles, and home visits
5. Is holding a celebration in my humble home befitting enough to honour the Báb?
“Efforts to befittingly honour the Báb” are those that “succeed in advancing the Cause He foretold”.(4) If we continue working on building our capacities that have been developing so they find even greater expression leading up to the bicentenary, then we are honouring the Báb befittingly because we will be helping to advance His Cause.
6. What kind of celebrations should we plan for these events?
Celebrations should be “both uplifting and reverent…” (2)
Activities might include music, audio-visual presentations, publications, books, drama, food, etc.
7. Will these events involve proclamation?
The believers should understand that mere advertising or proclamation of events to the broader community is not a sufficient response to the guidance of the House of Justice to reach out to the “widest possible cross-section of society.”
8. Is the focus on larger community gatherings?
“The locus of activity for the bicentenaries is to be at the local level.” (2)
What constitutes “local” was not specifically defined, but has been considered to include the smallest possible units, e.g. a family, a teaching team, a study circle, a neighbourhood, etc. The friends in each cluster are acquainted with local needs, capacities and their abilities to respond. There is no prohibition on holding larger community gatherings provided these do not replace the efforts being made by individual friends to hold a myriad of other occasions. The collaborative scheduling of activities can overcome some clashes, but if there are to be “countless events”, involving numerous celebrations in each locality, it is inevitable that there will be some overlapping.
9. What should our meaningful conversations with others look like?
We must make efforts to articulate how spiritual truths can be translated into sustained practical action
And above all, converse not only about the teachings that will build the world anew, but about the Ones Who brought those teachings
“At the heart of these festivities must be a concerted effort to convey a sense of what it means for humanity that these two Luminaries rose successively above the horizon of the world.” (2)
“However, the real transformative power of the Faith is likely to be perceived more readily still if people experience how worship and meaningful service are being woven into the fabric of the lives of Bahá’ís everywhere.” (2)
10. How will we build on our strengths, and nurture and refine our capacities to find greater expression in contributing to a flourishing of activity in clusters?
Some examples may include the following:
Studying and consulting with others on the relevant messages from the Universal House of Justice to deepen understanding about the significance of the celebrations.
This will help to generate an enhanced sense of mission and increase the intensity of what we are doing as individuals.
For example, many households now hold regular devotional meetings, so how can there be a greater flow of individuals into the training institute from these devotional gatherings?
Focusing on the importance of this kaupapa for which we need to “step up” - thinking about what I as an individual can contribute to this special period, this special event and special process.
Demonstrating courage, determination, confidence, enthusiasm, creativity and joy (these are the spiritual qualities to draw on).
Seeing in each person a potential protagonist in the community-building process.
Considering how conditions can be created that would enable many others to walk this path together with us.
Using the spirit of heroism of the Báb and His followers to be a source of inspiration to arise and intensify our efforts.
Through ardent prayer and drawing upon the power of Divine confirmations.
11. What impact will these efforts and events have?
A significant aim is to inspire neighbourhoods, groups of families, and teams of friends into unified endeavour.
“There is, therefore, every reason to expect that the emphasis given to commemorating these Holy Days will have a considerable and cumulative impact on the work of raising vibrant communities—not least on the enrichment of devotional life.” (2)
“An important aspect of what must occur is the sense of shared experience and global solidarity arising from so many gatherings being held in a concentrated span of time...” (2)
To read something about how those in the Americas are preparing for the bicentenary, go to LINK
(1) Letter dated December 23, 2016 – from the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer
(2) Letter dated May 18, 2016 – from the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies
(3) Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, “Principles of Bahá’í Administration”, p. 55. For further information about suspension of work on Holy Days, see Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies.
(4) Letter of 18 July 2019 from the International Teaching Centre to the Continental Counsellors.