Global Holidays at Home: India's Holi Festival is a Color Fest

Buckle up, because it’s about to get messy. Celebrate one of the most joyful Indian festivals, Holi (March 13, 2017), this spring by splattering color – or colored water – on your family, friends, and strangers (okay, maybe not strangers) for this Hindu festival. Kids will love the excuse to get messy, and even parents won’t be able to resist the fun!

The tradition has been celebrated in India and Nepal for centuries, but only recently has the rest of the world started to catch up. Check the Hindu calendar for the date, as it changes from year to year. Most of the time, it falls somewhere in March.

To celebrate with a group, find your nearest Indian community and ask about this year’s festivities. If you can’t find any community parties nearby, pick a field and invite some neighborhood friends. Everyone will catch on just fine.

Holy Holi

As Hindu legend has it, there was once an evil king who wanted to be worshiped as a god. This king had an evil sister, Holika, who tried to convince the king’s son Prahlada to worship the king instead of the real Hindu deity, Vishnu.

Holika convinced Prahlada to sit on a pile of branches, planning to burn him alive on it, while she wore a cloak that would protect her from the fire. But as the fire began to burn, the cloak flew off Holika and onto Prahlada, sparing him while burning his evil aunt. This was the work of Vishnu, who later appeared to take down Prahlada’s father, too.

As the story goes, Prahlada was spared for his faith, while Holika was burned alive and turned into Holi, the ashes Prahlada smeared on his face. So for generations, Hindus smeared colored ashes on their faces to remind them of Vishnu’s victory against unbelievers. And so began the rituals of the Holika Dahan bonfire, throwing colored powder for Holi, and visiting friends and relatives for treats.

In India, where a strict caste system differentiates between distinct classes of people, the bright colors of Holi obscure those differences and, at least for one day, equalize all different types of people in celebration and love.

Burn, Baby, Burn

Take the kids and their friends to a campground and start the festivities off right with an evening bonfire. Gather some dry branches, newspaper, and twigs to start the fire. Give the pile a little gas and watch it burn. If you’re really adventurous, you can throw some colors into the fire, too.

Song and dance are all part of the tradition, but you could also tell stories or divide into teams for color wars to come. Perhaps reading a book with the story of Holika, such as Amma, Tell Me About Holi! by Bhakti Mathur, is the best way to introduce the start of the celebration and put everyone in a festive mood.

Color Me Brightly

The best way to celebrate Holi is to get messy! Dress your kids in old clothes that you’re prepared to throw away. Have them gather their friends, dressed in the same required rags. Put away any thoughts of the cleaning aftershocks – you want to enjoy the real fun.

Wondering where to get colored powder? You can order Holi powder on Amazon or Ebay, but it might be more fun to make it yourself. Combine a mixture of cornstarch and water, mixing it slowly into a smooth but goopy mixture. Add food coloring and spread the liquid mixture onto a baking tray. Let it dry for 24 to 36 hours before emptying the colored “bricks” into a blender to grind them back into powder.

Dump your various colored powders into bags, or scoop them into white nylons, tied on the end. If your kids throw the tied nylon balls, they’ll get the colors on their friends without the powder flying everywhere.

Prepare some liquid color, too. Super soakers or other squirt guns, coupled with a little food dye, work great for spreading color around. You can also fill up water balloons with colored water for a little extra effect.

If you’re worried about covering your lawn or park in food dye, try richly colored spices instead. Use turmeric, dill, or lavender flowers for some very rich colors. Beetroot or blueberry juice also work well for coloring cornstarch.

Dignified Conclusions

After dissolving social class differences with color, everyone cleans up, but the spirit of unity remains. Hindus use the Holi celebration as a way to mark new beginnings, forgiveness, and love. After cleaning up, take your kids on a walk around the neighborhood delivering sweets and perhaps making amends.

Most Indian sweets, or “mishta,” revolve around the idea of a spongy, syrup-drenched cake. Donuts work well as an American equivalent. You can find the traditional mishta at an Indian bakery, or make your own favorite cookies or sweets and deliver the spirit, instead of the taste, of an Indian Holi treat.

Remind your kids that the beginning of spring – and the attitude of forgiveness symbolized by Holi – can last the whole year through.

Will you be celebrating Holi this year? What’s your color-splattering game plan? Share with us!

Tags : celebrations   holidays from around the world   holi   global citizen   indian holidays   hindu holidays   

Dona Kareno
Someone do this with me