Holi: The Gateway Holiday
The haze of primary colors raining down on joyous, dancing crowds right around the time when the dreary final weeks of winter are giving way to the dewy hopefulness of spring -- it’s an image that even non-Hindus the world over are familiar with.
Holi is what I consider to be the gateway holiday of Indian celebrations. Diwali may be the most significant holiday for many South Asians, but Holi is the one that most resonates with non-Indians the world over, from Los Angeles to London to Lagos.
When I was growing up one of a handful of Indian-Americans in my high school, Holi was the event that my non-Indian friends buzzed about the most. It was the early 2000s and they didn’t always know much about Hinduism or Partition or the amazingness of pav bhaji, but they loved the idea of playing under a powder rainbow so much that they dutifully donned white shirts and signed up for Color Runs. Even Coldplay and Beyonce were intrigued, and featured the holiday in their video for “Hymn for the Weekend.”
Many Indian-Americans themselves don’t know about the significance of the colors -- far from being just prismatic, each of the colors carries a meaning for the coming season: Green symbolizes new beginnings, red represents fertility and love, blue exemplifies Krishna.
More importantly, for me, it represents a way to share my culture with others -- including my son and the next generation of Indian-Americans and non-Indians alike. It’s a vibrant, vivid way to open up the conversation to the other customs, rituals and celebrations of South Asia. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a picturesque celebration to the end of the cold and the home stretch to the lazy, happy days of summer?