Baha'is around the world fast during the month of `Ala' (02 - 20 March) before the new year (Naw Ruz). This physical act of abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset is symbolic and a reminder of our spiritual sustenance. The Baha'i fast is not a ritual, but an individual obligation and a spiritual experience. It is a time for reflection, meditation, recuperation and drawing nearer to God. Baha'i laws exempt the young, the old, the sick, the travellers, heavy labourers, the pregnant and breastfeeding mothers from fasting.
Fasting is a little difficult during the first few days but it does get easier and easier. The most practical question to be asked is what should we eat during the fast? Fasting in our household was the time to get ready for the new year. Our daily ritual consisted of spring cleaning the entire house and shopping for new clothes for the kids and special foods for Naw Ruz. We soaked wheat grains to sprout and decorated boiled eggs. We queued for hours and hours to buy special pastries, sweets and Ajeel (nut mix) and our dinner for the final day of fasting was always a traditional meal of herbed rice with fish. During the craziness of Naw Ruz preparations, we ate special foods for the fast. The most basic and wholesome foods were served for breakfast and dinner. Soaked walnuts, almonds and dates were usually served for breakfast along with Ceylon tea served in small Chai glasses, Turkish pide and feta cheese. To break the fast, we started with tea and sweets, then some soup or Aash and finished it off with rice and stew.
Many years later and in a different country, during the fast we prepare the bare essentials for Naw Ruz. We no longer spring clean, and make a little effort in buying new clothes, and bake all our sweets and pastries few days before the new year. During the fast however, it is business as usual with food. We still soak walnuts the night before, buy Bulgarian Feta cheese and dates, still cook the same Aash, make halva and have a meat dish. The important thing about eating during the fast is not to skip breakfast, drink plenty of water and eat balanced meals. Eating a balanced breakfast with protein and carbohydrates and plenty of water sustains us for most of the day. As for dinner, have plenty of water to replenish the fluid level in your body. The reason why dates and sugary fried morsels are popular during the fast in Iran is for a simple reason of keeping sugar levels in place.