Say farewell to winter and hello to Spring under a psychedelic cloud of powder on Holi, one of the most exciting Spring welcoming celebrations on the planet. A traditional Hindu festival known as the “Festival of Colors,” Holi is celebrated by millions of people in India, where it originated, and around the world. That Technicolor powder revelers throw on each other is not only to promote the coming of spring but also love, fertility, and the triumph over evil. The festival’s date follows the Hindu lunar calendar, and in 2018 it falls on March 2. You most likely know the basics, but here’s 8 things you probably didn’t know about Holi.
1. What’s Up With the Powder
That colorful powder that’s thrown during the festival is called Gulaal. Four colors are used and they each mean something different. Yellow represents the color of turmeric, which is the spice that gives curry its yellow color; red is all about love and fertility; and green, naturally, symbolizes spring and new beginnings. And blue? That comes from the legend of Radha and Krishna. According to the tale, Krishna was embarrassed that his skin was dark blue and he told his mother that his love Radha would reject him. To stop worries, his mother painted his skin the same color as hers, and they became a couple.
2. Holi Is Actually a 2-Day Party
Holi is actually divided into two parts: Holika Dahan and Rangwali Holi. The first day, Holika Dahan, is a purification celebration held the night before Holi. Logs and dung cakes are burned in a huge bonfire that celebrates the victory of good over evil. Families come together to roast popcorn, grain, chick peas, and coconuts. The second day is the main event. In some places, though, Holi lasts longer – as long as 16 days in the Braj region of India.
3. What’s the Story Behind Holi?
A few different versions exist on the origin of Holi but the most common version goes like this: A powerful king named Hiranyakshyap was furious that his son Prahlad chose to worship Lord Vishnu instead of him. So the king decided to burn his rebellious son. To do this, Prahlad would sit on the lap of Holika, the demon sister of the King, who could protect herself from the flames with a magic sari. But after the fire was lit, Prahlad recited the name of Vishnu and escaped his funeral pyre but Holika was consumed by the flames. There’s a lesson in there, for sure.
4. What’s Holi Like In India
A full blown party!!! It’s like asking what Mardi Gras is like an New Orleans. People fill the streets, throwing colors, dancing, laughing, and running around. Food and music is everywhere. No rules or expectations here. Just get out on the street, get colorful, and celebrate the arrival of spring, love, and everything that makes the world great and beautiful.
5. What’s the Traditional Holi Food
You’ll find so much tasty food and drink during Holi and you should try to sample it all. Here are some highlights: Thandai, a sweet, creamy milk drink flavored with nuts and mixed with spices such as cardamom, fennel, rose petals, poppy seeds, and bhang (which is like marijuana); Puran Poli, a sweet, buttery flatbread; and Dahi Vada, an Indian snack that’s made by soaking fritters made from chickpea flour, potato, or lentil in a dahi, a creamy Indian yogurt, often topped with chili powder, black pepper, cumin, shredded coconut, cilantro, or mint leaves.
6. What’s Holi Like Outside of India
Holi is celebrated everywhere from San Francisco to Paris and in nearly every Indian community around the world. The difference is in India, everywhere you go people are celebrated. Not true elsewhere. In places outside of India, Holi is celebrated in a designated spot. This mean during Holi, don’t walk through Golden Gate Park and expect someone will be cool if you douse them with water colors. Wait until you arrive at the designated party, and then let the celebrations begin.
7. Not Everyone Likes Holi
Sure, the streets will be filled with people throwing colors around. But one thing to keep in mind is not everyone is into getting doused with packets of color or water balloons. Just because you see someone “clean” walking down the street doesn’t mean that person is ripe for “colorization.” Be respectful, and ask them first if they want to have their face smeared in the four colors of Holi. If they do, have at it. If not, smile and politely move on but keep it festive.
8. What’s the After-Party Clean-Up Like?
Like any big event, you have to do some prep work. Hindus moisturize their skin and put oil in their hair before the celebrations so they can easily rinse off the gulaal. Once all the gulaal – which is usually a mix of food dye, flour, and water – is rinsed off, people clean up, dress up and give gifts of traditional sweets.