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Your Guide To Celebrating Holi in India

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Holi is the Hindu festival of colours that marks the beginning of spring. This year Holi falls on March 6th, and while it has grown in popularity in the Western world, there’s nothing like celebrating Holi in India. Here are some tips for first timers.

Powdered colours and marigold petals for playing Holi.

Powdered colours and marigold petals for playing Holi.

Take Care of Your Skin

Before the festivities, apply mustard oil, coconut oil, vaseline or olive oil to your skin to help the colour wash out easily after playing Holi. Wear waterproof sunscreen and look for natural colours to throw. If you start to feel any irritation, wash with cold water. Try to wash the colours off as soon as possible, not rubbing too vigourously. Lemon juice also can be used to help get rid of colour.

Pick The Right Place To Celebrate 

Southern India’s celebrations are more solemn and focus more on religious rituals than playing Holi. If you’re in Delhi, the Holi Cow Festival is a fun celebration with indie music and food. For Holi 2014 my friends and I went to the Just Talk Holi Party, which was held in a wide grassy farm, with buffet lunch, music, water guns and colours. It was a safe environment, and will be happening again this year. Celebrating with an Indian family is also a great idea, since things can get very wild on the streets. Jaipur is famous for its Holi Elephant Festival, taking place on March 5th this year.

Don’t Miss The Bonfires

The night before Holi is full of fireworks and bonfires. The lighting of the bonfires is called Holika Dahan and symbolizes good triumphing over evil.

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Women preparing the Holika pyre.

Know What You’re Drinking

Bhang Lassi is traditionally drank during Holi festivities, and is actually made with dried cannabis leaves. It’s very sweet and is stronger than you think.

Pick The Right Clothes

Wearing long sleeves and long pants will help protect your skin, although for me the colours went right through everything anyways. Be sure to wear clothes (and even underwear) that you don’t mind ruining. A lot of people wear white because of the contrast between the white and all the colours, but in reality your clothes are going to be ruined almost instantly anyways.

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Me on the right, in my Holi best.

Play It Safe

A lot of women advised us to stay inside during Holi, since groping and harassment is common, especially considering so many men are intoxicated. Even the younger girls I talked to preferred to stay inside, since some of the boys get carried away and start throwing mud or anything they can find when they run our of colours. Stay in groups and put thought into where you play Holi. I went to two parties consisting mostly of children, and found that that was the most fun.

Do Some Research About The Holiday 

Unless you’re Hindu, you might want to learn more about the holiday you’re going to be celebrating. The festival has its own website with a lot of information. The BBC also has a concise summary of the festival, as does About Religion. Many people in the Western world have removed the religious aspect of the holiday, celebrating without understanding what they’re celebrating, and just having fun. It’s a better idea to embrace all aspects of the holiday, and talk to locals about the meaning of Holi and their traditions.

Have Fun!

Put on some old clothes, buy some colours and a water gun and enjoy the day! Holi is not only tons of fun, but it’s also a great way to experience India and get to see why so many people love traveling there: it’s bright, it’s loud and it’s full of the unexpected.

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