by Chelsea Low
Last weekend I found myself in the middle of the Indian celebration Holi. Quite literally, actually. On my way to the hike I’d originally planned, I noticed crowds of Technicolor paint-splattered college students walking back into town from the popular hiking area I was heading towards.Could it be!? I thought gleefully, are they celebrating Holi today?
I had never been to a Holi celebration before, and I wasn’t wearing the traditional white clothes that most people wear, but still. Why not? I decided to discreetly stalk the white-clad students in front of me to see what it was all about. Minutes later, I was in the middle of a dusty sea of students chucking handfuls of orange, pink, blue, and green powdered paint at one another to a soundtrack of pulsing Bollywood beats.
Americans might know Holi as the origins of the trendy Color Run, but what most don’t know is that the holiday itself is still celebrated in many American cities with large Indian populations, such as Berkeley, California, where I celebrated myself. Holi originated as a religious Hindu holiday, but in the United States, it has become a non-religious religious holiday that simply celebrates joy and togetherness at the start of spring. Sounds like a good reason to celebrate to me.
The paint itself is outrageously priced. (I am not spending $5 on a few tiny packets of powdered of paint when it’s already flying in every direction around me.) But I knew that simply walking through the vibrant crowd would get me as colorful as I could ever desire. Indeed, as I walked through the already paint-coated crowd, not only did I get splattered with the neon powder, but people would see me and say things like, “Hey! You don’t have enough paint on you!” before proceeding to dump the entire contents of their packets on my head.
Speaking of paint on my head: if you have fair hair I would strongly suggest going to great lengths to protect your hair from being stained permanently by the dye. The only thing that restored my hair back to blonde from traffic safety vest-orange was tea tree oil shampoo. I hear that things like apple cider vinegar, mayonnaise, and ketchup work wonders for other people, but I personally did not have any luck with them. Dye on the skin, however, comes off when scrubbed with soap, thankfully. But don’t be alarmed if you’re still finding fluorescent powder in strange places for the next week.
Holi serves an over-stimulating, in-your-face, rainbow-colored taste of India to the Americans who have adopted the holiday as their own. I think of it as a sort of “bucket list” experience everyone has to do at least once in their lives. The energy is unparalleled, as the innocent act of joyously covering each other in beautiful color brings together a crowd of hundreds of strangers. It is an experience unlike any other, this intoxicating festival of color. It is the perfect way to reign in the warm weather and celebrate the simple joys in life while being doused in fistfuls of color.
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