Bahá’ís should obviously be encouraged to preserve their inherited cultural identities, as long as the activities involved do not contravene the principles of the Faith. The perpetuation of such cultural characteristics is an expression of unity in diversity. Although most of these festive celebrations have no doubt stemmed from religious rituals in bygone ages, the believers should not be deterred from participating in those in which, over the course of time, the religious meaning has given way to purely culturally oriented practices.

Universal House of Justice, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities

In deciding whether or not to participate in such traditional activities, the Bahá’í 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. For example, in a letter written on behalf of the Guardian there appears the following guidance: “As regards the celebration of the Christian Holidays by the believers, it is surely preferable and even highly advisable that the Friends should in their relation to each other discontinue observing such holidays as Christmas and New Year, and to have their festival gatherings of this nature instead during the intercalary days and Naw-Ruz.”

Universal House of Justice, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities

The answer to this question takes careful consideration, because the intention must be clear. As Bahá’ís believe that all religions come from God, they could, in principle, celebrate Christmas and the other holidays of the Christian faith and other religions. But would it be a good idea? We should consider two things:

First of all, Bahá’u’lláh, the Messenger of God for our age, brought us new teachings for a new Age. He gave us a new calendar with new Holy days. Good occasions for us to celebrate and give gifts are, for example, intercalary Days and Naw-Ruz.

Another thing to remember is this : if Bahá’ís would start to celebrate Christmas, other people who do not know that they are Bahá’ís could think that they were Christians. People would be even more confused if Bahá’ís would also start celebrating the Holy days of other religions. In order to avoid such confusion, the beloved Guardian counselled the friends to no longer celebrate days like Christmas and the New Year with other Bahá’ís.

But, as you know, not everybody is Bahá’í : many Bahá’ís come from Christian families who celebrate Christmas ! There is nothing wrong for Bahá’ís to celebrate Christmas with their families. Sometimes, Bahá’ís are invited to Christmas celebrations with their friends : all this is fine, because Bahá’u’lláh taught that Bahá’ís must maintain cordial relationships with the followers of all religions. You must remember, though, that Bahá’í families and Bahá’í communities do not celebrate Christmas with each other.

The Universal House of Justice hopes that this letter will help you a little to understand your mother’s advice.

Universal House of Justice to an 11 year old girl, 18 April 1988