9th Day Ridván
And on the 9th Day……….
There are very few traditions in the Bahá’í’ Faith, at least of those traditions that can be traced to purely human invention. Those that do exist are not followed as some sort of rule, seem to arise spontaneously, and are never considered in the same league as principles we follow. Nonetheless, Portland community seems to have developed a habit regarding the 9th Day of Ridván, that is that it’s become one of the biggest turn-outs with the number of people that show up at a centralized location to join in the festivities. It also seems to be one of the two Holy Days with the largest number of children participating. This year was no exception. On a balmy spring evening, the Center filled with people of many different ages and backgrounds. The observance was short and simple, yet loaded with beautiful prayers and a brief history lesson. It seems that back in the day, 1863, when Bahá’u’lláh established the first Ridván Festival, there was some high water. After reaching the island garden on the Tigres river, the water level rose dramatically. Bahá’u’lláh’s family remained in Bagdad to prepare for the long exile. Few boatmen would traverse the river as the water was rife with dangerous currents. But by the 9th day the waters had receded, leaving the river once again safe for passage. Bahá’u’lláh’s family joined Him then on the island, as did the extended family of many of His followers. Because of this the 9th Day of the Ridván Festival has increasingly come to be thought of as a family day, a reunion day. Such was the setting then at the Portland Bahá’í’ Center. Many small children are dressed in finery, little sport coats and ties on the boys, lace frocks, ribbons and shiny shoes on the girls. As prayers were said, and as some brief histories narrated, I found myself looking around at all the people gathered, all the families and friends of families, and I realized that this reunion is a very real thing. It is beautiful, almost overwhelming.
The formal readings end. Bountiful tables of refreshments and tea await all. But right before we break, an inspired parent stands up and asks if there are any children who would like to offer a prayer. It doesn’t take much coaxing, and a precocious child is given a wireless microphone with which to recite. She does so to perfection. A second child steps up and completes the task with glee. Suddenly there is a small, controlled scramble among the children to be next, and clearly heard among the crowd is a little boy politely stating “It’s my turn now!” The adults can barely contain their joy as child after child, in orderly fashion, recites a prayer they have learned.
Even more magic awaits as we calmly move to the foyer to partake of snacks. I take a while to get there myself, stopping to admire a new baby and talk to a few friends. I begin to notice a few people holding small, colorful cookies and talking about how amazing these cookies are. Winding my way to the refreshment tables, there among a plethora of fresh sliced fruit, chips and dips and the like, are two distinct plates laden with the cookies in question, Persian macaroons. They are small, round, delicately made by hand, and in three different flavors. Even looking at them, they seem to radiate a light that says “Someone made me with love!” They are the best macaroons I’ve ever tasted. Each variety, pistachio, almond, and rose, seems to have a gift of its own. Asking around a bit, I find out that they were made by a young doctor of Persian and American background.
This is the type of community we have. As I leave the Bahá’í’ Center that evening I feel refreshed, renewed, and maybe even a little reborn.