Every nineteen days, on the night that begins a new Baha’i month, Baha’is gather for Feast. By its name, you’re probably guessing that there’s a huge meal involved. While it’s true that Feasts usually offer snacks or food of some kind (and sometimes even a potluck supper), these festive Baha’i gatherings usually don’t have rich, elaborate, multi-course meals—instead, they’re Feasts in the spiritual sense of the word, where people satisfy their souls rather than their stomachs.
To put it differently, a Feast brings the Baha’i community together to pray, discuss local events, plan for future celebrations and activities, review community concerns and suggestions, and, last but not least, socialize, eat together and have fun with one another.
The Baha’i Feast is an evening not only of prayers and conversation, but one that emphasizes community building discussions and meaningful discourse and consultation. In other words, Baha’is talk about what’s going on in the world around them, and plan to help solve the ills facing the world by starting at the grass-roots level: the local neighborhood.
What does this look like translated into action? Baha’is consciously and actively get to know our neighbors; we organize and teach free children’s classes; we host devotional gatherings where everyone is welcome; and we hold junior youth groups for the teens and preteens in the neighborhood. We discuss problems in the local and global community, we help our neighbors, and we work with everyone—no matter their beliefs, religious affiliation, race, gender, cultural background or age—to build a better, kinder, less prejudiced and more peaceful society. Our goal: to transform the world, one soul and one neighborhood at a time.
As Baha’is work with each other and our fellow human beings, we often ask questions: How can we best help our neighbors? Do suffering or struggling people we know need a visit, food, clothing, or support? Do children who could benefit from spiritual education about the importance of virtues and service to humanity need a new class to learn about those things? Are there youngsters in our town who could use involvement in a junior youth group? What service projects are the youth involved in, and how can we help them succeed?
As you can see from these few examples, Baha’is tend to pose questions that go beyond the weather and what someone does for a living. We want to know about the deep and meaningful discussions we can have with each other about what really matters to affect change in our world.
All of this begins at the monthly community meeting, devotional gathering and consultation conference Baha’is call Feast:
You have asked as to the feast in every Baha’i month. This feast is held to foster comradeship and love, to call God to mind and supplicate Him with contrite hearts, and to encourage benevolent pursuits.
That is, the friends should there dwell upon God and glorify Him, read the prayers and holy verses, and treat one another with the utmost affection and love. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 91.
In addition to increasing love and fellowship among the believers, Feasts promote spiritual well being:
As to the Nineteen Day Feast, it rejoiceth mind and heart. If this feast be held in the proper fashion, the friends will, once in nineteen days, find themselves spiritually restored, and endued with a power that is not of this world. – Ibid.
In another passage, Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
Ye observe to what a degree the world is in continual turmoil and conflict, and to what a pass its nations have now come. Perchance will the lovers of God succeed in upraising the banner of human unity, so that the one-colored tabernacle of the Kingdom of Heaven will cast its sheltering shadow over all the earth; that misunderstandings among the world’s peoples will vanish away; that all nations will mingle one with another, dealing with one another even as the lover with his beloved.
It is your duty to be exceedingly kind to every human being, and to wish him well; to work for the upliftment of society; to blow the breath of life into the dead; to act in accordance with the instructions of Baha’u’llah and walk His path—until ye change the world of man into the world of God. – Ibid., p. 90.