So long, dreary, cold winter days. Spring is (almost) here! And we can’t wait to shed our winter coats, go back to bare legs, and start leaving our houses again. But the dawn of spring marks more than just a change of season. Across cultures and religious practices, springtime symbolizes renewal, transformation, and rebirth. And while there exist many splendid ways to celebrate this joyous occasion, none highlights the striking beauty of the season more than Holi, aka the “festival of colors.”
So what, and when, is Holi?
Observed annually, this traditional Hindu holy day began in India as a way to welcome spring’s arrival. Arising on the evening of the full moon (known as Purnima) in the month of Phalguna, this two-day-long feast-for-the-eyes fête falls somewhere between late February and mid-March. (After Valentine’s Day but before St. Patrick’s Day, for you holiday calendar-keeping types.) This year’s Holi runs from March 1st to March 2nd.
But Holi doesn’t just celebrate spring’s radiant return. It also symbolizes the triumph of good over evil, or spring’s defeat of winter. So on the ancient festival’s first night, known as Holika Dahan, or Chhoti Holi, revelers gather around a raging bonfire and perform religious rituals in recognition of the victory.
The next day, though, Holi’s true colors shine. Literally.
The morning after, called Rangwali Holi, festival goers dance, play, and throw gulal, a vibrantly tinted powder, at each other in a rainbow-colored, nature-inspired free-for-all. The pigmented powder, which celebrants sometimes mix with water and toss in balloons, signifies the coming of spring and all the eye-catching shades the season brings to life.
And each of the four main bold and beautiful gulal hues — red, blue, yellow, and green — represent a unique attribute of the day’s celebration. Red symbolizes love and fertility. Blue honors Krishna, Hindu god of compassion, tenderness, and love. Yellow is the color of turmeric, and green stands for new beginnings.
If you want to join this year’s festivities but can’t afford the airfare to India, don’t get blue. Here’s some news that will tickle you pink!
Holi may have sprung from the Indian subcontinent, but today, it’s put down roots all over the world, even in the United States. In fact, “festival of colors” followers, like Festival Of Colors USA, organize Holi events across the country’s Southwest every year, throwing a handful of powder parties in California, Nevada, and Utah that feature live music, yoga, dance, and traditional Indian cuisine.
New York City’s Holi Hai happening promotes diversity, inclusion, and equality for all through color. And its culturally blended lineup of performers includes everyone from sufi and Punjabi musicians to Indian vocalists and traditional Bhangra dancers. Last year, similar Holi celebrations painted the town red in Houston, Texas, Boston, Massachusetts, and Moundsville, West Virginia.
Color us excited. Happy Holi everyone!