Holi is an Indian and Nepalese festival that marks the end of winter. Different regions in the country celebrate the holiday with different traditions, but generally, it is celebrated through colored powder, spraying super-soakers, and bonfires. Holi is a Sanskrit word that translates to 'festival of colors' or 'festival of love.'
Growing up in California, I remember going to Huntington Beach with my family every year. Nowadays, I see events taking the fun of throwing colored powder at one another and not recognizing the significance of the holiday. As much as I remember that excitement, I also remember sitting with my grandma and enjoying the warmth of the fire as we prayed with everyone.
As a kid, I did not understand the value in that moment. Growing up and learning about the holiday, I realized how much attention is given to only part of the festival. The festival celebrates a victory of good over evil, love and new beginnings, ties to agriculture and spring harvest, and much, much more.
Specifically, in Gujarat, Holi is a two-day holiday that starts off with the burning of Holika celebrating good triumphing over evil. Holika was a demon that was tricked by her brother into killing his son. She had a boon keeping her protected from burning, however, she was unaware this was only if she entered alone. Her ashes are used to purify homes and rid home members' bodies of disease. Moreover, there is also a tradition of cleansing the home by burning all dirty articles from the house.
On the second day, the love of Radha and Krishna is celebrated alongside good harvests. It reflects transcending past color and meeting everyone with warmth, letting bygones be bygones. It starts with a bonfire - I'm sensing a theme here - the night before and then everyone plays with colors and sends each other warm wishes. There are water balloons or water sprayers as color is smeared onto anyone and everyone. People dance and exchange deliciously sweet snacks.
As much as I appreciate and love the celebration. I wish I would have known about the traditions and history of the holiday. It is a beautiful and rich celebration. People are ready to look at the festival and see the love being expressed without looking beyond to appreciate where it came from and that is a shame. Events that mimic the holiday diminish the value in recognizing one another and spreading the good that came from the various legends.
I hope that as people participate in these events they explore the history of the holiday. It made me appreciate it more, but moreover, it made me want to bring those traditions to the forefront of the conversation.