Bahá’í communities throughout the world celebrate their new year, marked by the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere, between sunset on 20 March 2005 and sunset on the 21st. Known as Naw-Ruz, the festival has been celebrated in Iran from time immemorial, and was confirmed by Baha’u’llah as a holy day. It coincides with the first day of the first month of the year in the Bahá’í calendar.

The observances will take different multi-cultural forms in the 120,000 localities where Baha’is reside around the world, but typically include devotions, celebrations, and feasting. The festival comes at the end of a 19-day fast, in which adult Baha’is abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset as a reminder of the need for freedom from the pressure of material desires.

(Photo: Among those celebrating Naw-Ruz this year are these Bahá’í youth, from a diverse range of countries, who are serving as volunteer staff at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa, Israel.)