Holi 2023: How to rejoice the holiday break & shade toss events

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More than 2,000 UNC students celebrated Holi, the Indian festival of colors, at Hooker Fields in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Friday, April 11, 2014.

Far more than 2,000 UNC pupils celebrated Holi, the Indian competition of colours, at Hooker Fields in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Friday, April 11, 2014.

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Holi is known as the Festival of Colors. It’s an important holiday for Indian and South Asian communities, celebrated by throwing colored powder, lighting bonfires and having water gun fights.

This year, Holi (pronounced “ho-LEE”) is on Wednesday, March 8. Here’s what to know about the holiday:

What is Holi?

Holi is a Hindu holiday that celebrates the triumph of good over evil, said Mansi Gupta, co-director of UNC Chapel Hill’s student-run organization Holi Moli. It’s celebrated worldwide by Hindus and non-Hindus.

The word “Holi” derives from the legend of Prahlad and Holika, who was the sister of a demon king, says HoliFestival.org. Holi celebrates the triumph of good over evil, which we see in this legend when Holika dies by fire and Lord Naarayana (a different form of Lord Vishnu) remains.

In another origin story, the god Krishna applied colored powder to faces of fair-skinned girls to make them look like him, as his skin was blue hued, according to NPR.

Today, colored powder and bonfires are typically used to celebrate the Festival of Colors.

How is Holi celebrated?

“The colors of Holi represent brightness and good, kind-hearted religious figures taking over the bad ones. That’s a common theme in Hindu stories, and Diwali celebrates something similar,” Gupta said.

There are a few traditional ways to celebrate Holi:

• Throwing colored powder: The color of the powder, called “Gulal,” is significant too.

According to Color Powder Supply, yellow signifies turmeric, a special condiment for Hindus. Blue represents Lord Krishna. Green can represent new life, or the start of spring.

• Spraying water guns: Water gun (and sometimes water balloon) fights are common to celebrate Holi. The water is sometimes also colored.

Note: Many community Holi celebrations won’t include a water gun portion to keep the event safer and cleaner.

• Lighting a bonfire: Holi celebrations will sometimes begin with a Holika bonfire the night before, where people will gather, sing and dance.

South Asian community members will open up their Holi celebrations to those outside of the community. UNC’s Holi Moli club uses the holiday to showcase social justice opportunities.

“That’s one important way to represent the overcoming of good over evil,” said Manav Parikh, co-director of Holi Moli.

Chapel Hill Holi event benefits charities

This year’s event will benefit Kiran, which helps South Asian survivors of domestic abuse, and Gift of Life, which provides awareness of blood cancer and transplants to cure them.

“We want to get more South Asian people on the bone marrow registry list. If even one person signs up to donate bone marrow at our event, it’ll be a success,” Parikh said.

HOLI-PHOTOS132.JPG
Colored powders are thrown in the air throughout Holi celebrations in Mumbai, India, on March 13, 2017. Dhiraj Singh Bloomberg

When is Holi?

Holi has historically been celebrated to begin the harvest season, usually falling in the month of March. The past two Holi celebrations took place on March 29 (2021) and March 18 (2022).

This year, the holiday falls on Wednesday, March 8.

Holi events in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Morrisville NC

If we missed any Holi events in the Triangle, please send details to [email protected].

• Pratt Master’s Holi Color Throw (Duke): Take a break and come celebrate Holi in the Engineering Quad at Duke University. We’ll have our own celebration of color by throwing brightly colored powders. We’ll provide the colored powder, you do the rest. The event is free, and only the first 100 to register using the link below will get free color packets. When: March 8, 3 p.m. Where: Harrington Quad, Duke University Info: calendar.duke.edu

• Holi Mela at HSNC Temple: Visit the Hindu Society of North Carolina for henna, handicrafts, a DJ, cultural performances and more. Parking is $5 per car. When: March 11, 11 a.m. Where: 309 Aviation Pkwy in Morrisville Info: facebook.com/HSNCTemple

• Triangle Holi: Colors will fill the atmosphere as people throw colors (abeer and gulal) in the air showing great joy and mirth in the arrival of this Spring Festival. Walk-in tickets are $10 each or $20 for a family. When: March 12, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Where: Cedar Fork District Park, 228 Aviation Pkwy, Morrisville Info: triangleholi.com

• Holi Mela at Cheeni: This event at Cheeni Indian Food Emporium requires a ticket purchased in advance, which covers all street-style food and drink available that day. The celebration will include music, dancing and more. When: March 12, 2-6 p.m. Where: 1141 Falls River Ave, Ste. 124 in Raleigh Info: cheeniraleigh.com/store/event/holi-mela

• Morrisville’s Holi Celebration: There will be music, dancing, artisan vendors, cultural performances, food, and fun. The festival is free, and will feature dancing, Holi powders and food for purchase. The Town will provide Holi powder to attendees to get the event started, but attendees are strongly encouraged to bring their own Holi powder to keep the fun going. Please note that this will be a DRY Holi celebration, so participants are asked to leave water toys at home. When: March 18, 12-3 p.m. Where: Cedar Fork Community Center, 1050 B Town Hall Dr in Morrisville Info: townofmorrisville.org/recreation

• Holi Moli (UNC-Chapel Hill): This event will benefit Gift of Life Marrow Registry and Kiran Inc. When: March 31, 5 p.m. Where: Hooker Fields, UNC Chapel Hill Info: uncholimoli.com

Triangle Asked & Answered: What do you want to know?

Have a question about something in our community? The News & Observer’s Service Journalism team wants your questions for our Triangle Asked & Answered series. Reach out to us by filling out this form or by sending an email to [email protected].

This story was initially revealed March 7, 2023, 2:29 PM.

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Kimberly Cataudella (she/her) is a company journalism reporter for The Information & Observer.


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