Holi — Festival of Colors


Flowers 2015 wall calendar by Christopher Gruver

My favorite holiday I’ve never celebrated is Holi, which is celebrated in India on the full moon of Phalguna (March 6 in 2015). It’s a spring festival during which people splash each other with colored, scented water or throw colored dyes at each other. It’s a rowdy time when the genders can mingle, and so can people of different social classes. A popular Holi drink is milk, flavored with spices, and also sometimes infused with hashish.

Recently, American television commercials, especially commercials for cars, have been fond of publishing video of people running through the clouds of colored dye that are typical of Holi celebrations in India. There are also specialty runs, like the Color Run all over the United States and the world. Not content with splashing runners with color, the Color Run organizers are adding glitter to the mix this year.

According to the website, the dyes thrown during the Color Run are made of cornstarch colored with FD&C dyes. Traditionally, the dyes used in India were made from plants, like the colorful red-orange blossoms of the palash tree, which were dried and then ground into powder.

I’m not quite sure how to celebrate Holi in Seattle. I’m probably not going to drink milk laced with hashish or throw colored powder on my friends or squirt them with colored water from a water pistol or even throw balloons full of colored water. But this reminds me of the cascarones: eggs filled with confetti that are popular in Mexico at Easter. When thrown at someone, they break open to reveal a cloud of colored dots.  According to Wikipedia, these were originally filled with perfume and thrown at women by men. And this reminds me of the confetti and blood oranges thrown during Carnival in Venice. Obviously there is something about juicy color and sweetness and mischief that I need to honor on this spring full moon.

Waverly FitzgeraldWaverly Fitzgerald is a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who has studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shares her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. She is currently working on a series of essays about looking for nature in the city and blogs for the Seattle PI as the “Urban Naturalist.”



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