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Celebrating Holi – What you need to know about the festival of colours

Very much like Easter, Holi is a celebration of love and new beginnings, but it does get very messy! The Hindu festival of Holi is a religious event observed by millions of people around the world, celebrating new life, Spring, harvest and the victory of good over evil: legend has it that the festival commemorates the victory of Lord Narasimha over the demon Hiranyakashyap.

It falls on the purnima, or full-moon day of Phalguna, which is the last month of the Hindu lunar calendar.

Holi Origin Story

As with many religious festivals there are many origin stories. For example , the god Krishna is sometimes said to have thrown coloured water at people when he was a boy. Another legend connects the idea of throwing colours with the lord Krishna. He felt embarrassed by his blue skin compared with the lighter skin of his beloved Radha. So his mother suggested he smudge her skin with colour to make him feel better. Although the origin story varies from region to region, Holi everywhere celebrates love, goodness, and the welcoming of positive energy back into your life.

How Long Does it Last?

The two day festival is best known for its bright colours: people of all ages gather together to pelt each other with perfumed, coloured powder called gulal. Sometimes they use water pistols and water balloons to make the powder stick.Holi is actually a two-day festival.

At the beginning of the festival there is “small Holi” alternatively called Holika Dahan or Choti Holi. This is when people gather around bonfires, sing and dance, letting go of negative thoughts and actions from the previous year. Different things are thrown into the flames, including wood, leaves, and food, such as corn, coconut and chickpeas. This is also done in remembrance of the burning of the demoness Holika, one of the most popular Holi stories.

What do the Colours Represent?

Each colour has a different meaning: Red symbolizes love and fertility; yellow is the colour of turmeric, a powder that’s native to India and important in both South Asian cuisine and culture; blue represents the Hindu god Krishna, the god of protection, compassion, and love; and green symbolizes new beginnings.

Traditional Food

As with other religions and festivals, traditional meals and treats are served. After Holi there is a big feast, complete with a huge selection of traditional dishes, for example gujiya, a fried, dumpling-shaped sweet stuffed with dried fruit; dahi vada, a savoury snack with lentil fritters and yogurt, topped with a savoury chutney and other garnishes; barfi, sweets made from condensed milk and sugar; and lassi, a sweet, refreshing yogurt drink, just to name a few.

This year Holi fell on March 25th so we have missed the celebrations this year, but it gives us plenty of time to add it to our calendar for next year!

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