Dear Bahá’í Friend,
An email letter dated 14 February 2019, addressed to the Universal House of Justice and
forwarding your questions about certain cultural observances connected with the Chinese New
Year, has been received at the Bahá’í World Centre. Your queries have been passed to our
Office for response.
As to the question of Bahá’ís observing the Chinese New Year, the following have been
provided in response to related queries posed to the House of Justice on prior occasions:
In deciding whether or not to participate in such traditional activities, the
Bahá’ís must guard against two extremes. The one is to disassociate themselves
needlessly from harmless cultural observances and thus alienate themselves
from their non-Bahá’í families and friends; the other is to continue the practice
of abrogated observances of previous dispensations and thus undermine the
independence of the Bahá’í Faith and create undesirable distinctions between
themselves and their fellow-Bahá’ís. In this connection there is a difference
between what Bahá’ís do among themselves and what they do in companionship
with their non-Bahá’í friends and relations.
(From a letter dated 26 May 1982 written on behalf of the Universal
House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly)
In relation to traditional festivities in general, every culture has these, and
Bahá’ís should be encouraged to preserve their inherited cultural identities if they
wish to, so long as the activities that are involved do not contravene the principles
of the Faith or identify them as the followers of other religions. The perpetuation
of such cultural characteristics is an expression of unity in diversity. Although
most of these celebrations have no doubt stemmed from religious rituals in bygone
ages, the religious meaning has, in very many cases, given way to purely cultural
... it should also be remembered that the weaning away of the Bahá’ís from
customs and traditions, which have been established in their societies for centuries,
takes time and is a gradual process.
(From a letter dated 2 January 2002 written on behalf of the Universal
House of Justice to a Local Spiritual Assembly)
Regarding the practice of children prostrating themselves before parents and grandparents
during the Chinese New Year, the following has been provided in response to a similar query
posed to the House of Justice in the past:
You mention the custom of a son or a daughter-in-law or other relatives,
when they meet their elders, bowing before them and sometimes touching their
feet with a hand as a mark of respect. As you know, the reference in the Writings
of Bahá’u’lláh about bowing to and prostrating before others is in the context of
His teaching that no person should abase and humiliate himself before another.
However, those acts which in some cultures are considered to be merely polite are
not prohibited by Bahá’u’lláh and in this context no special directive is to be given
to the Indian Bahá’ís.
(From a letter dated 1 April 1994 written on behalf of the Universal House
of Justice to an individual believer)
It is hoped that this information provides you with the clarification you seek.
With loving Bahá’í greetings,
Office of Correspondence