Here's Everything You Need to Know About Holi, the Annual Festival of Colors

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Chances are that you've seen photos of people coated with colored powder on your Instagram feed every spring — but do you know the meaning behind the popular tradition? Often called the Festival of Colors, Holi is an ancient spring festival observed by Hindus around the world, and it's all about celebrating the divine love of Radha Krishna with singing, dancing, and lots of powdered paint. When is Holi, you ask? The Holi 2023 date falls on Wednesday, March 8, marking the end of the winter, the arrival of spring, and the hopeful beginning of a good harvest season — so it's time to start planning your celebration.

Similar to Diwali (which is known as the Festival of Lights), Holi revolves around the idea of light and good triumphing over darkness and sin. "This festival celebrates the arrival of spring and harvests to come, and the victory of good over evil," The Snazzy Mom founder Arushi Garg explains to Woman's Day. The two-day festival is also meant to celebrate the victory of Lord Vishnu, and though it originated in India, Holi is now celebrated around the world. As Garg adds, "Although it is traditionally a Hindu festival, Holi is celebrated across the globe and is a great equalizer."

Whether you're looking for ways to celebrate Holi with your own family or just hoping to understand more about the annual celebration, here's everything you should know about the Festival of Colors.

What is Holi?

Holi is celebrated each year to honor the arrival of spring, as well as love, fertility, and renewal. The festival is a time for meeting others, forgiving and forgetting, and repairing broken relationships, and it's a time when celebrants are able to relax social codes and let down traditional barriers. "Like many South Asian parents, preservation of culture is imperative for me and family," Garg says. "It is of utmost importance we pass on our cultural values to our child. And so, just like every year, we are very excited to celebrate the Festival of Colors, Holi."

Holi celebrations start on the night before the main Holi festival with a Holika Dahan, where people gather around a bonfire, perform religious rituals, and pray that their internal evil be destroyed, just as Holika — the evil sister of the demon king, Hiranyakashyap — was killed by fire. The next day, celebrants then gather in the streets to dance, enjoy delicious snacks, and throw powder.

"On Holi, we gather with our friends at backyards or driveways and play Holi with brightly colored powders, also known as 'gulal,'" explains Garg. "We throw and smear it on clothes and faces, dance on Bollywood beats, and enjoy delicious Indian food in the day. Kids enjoy playing with water balloons, water blasters, and jumping in colored-water kiddie pools."

When is Holi?

According to Garg, the date of Holi each year is determined by the Hindu lunar calendar, with the holiday observed on the last full moon day, or Purnima, of the twelfth month of Phalguna (which corresponds with either February or March in the Gregorian calendar, depending on the year). In 2023, Holi falls on March 8, with Holika Dahan taking place the night before on March 7.

How to celebrate Holi:

Want to take part in the fun this year? Here are a few ways to celebrate Holi with your own family.

Play with colors

when is holi play with colors
Francesco Carta fotografo - Getty Images

Traditionally, plant-derived materials such as turmeric, neem, dhak, and kumkum were used to make gulal, but nowadays, most people use water-based commercial pigments for their powder solutions. You'll find plenty of colored powder available to purchase online, which is skin-safe, non-toxic, biodegradable, and perfect for dousing your friends and family.

Have a water balloon fight

when is holi water balloon fight
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No Holi is complete without getting drenched, and the best way to get your fellow celebrants drenched is with some water balloons. Invest in a packet of balloons that you can fill with water and toss at your friends and family, or take a more efficient route with a set of water blasters. Oh, and you can always use colored bath drops in a mini pool for a very effective (and colorful!) soaking.

Eat traditional foods

when is holi eat traditional foods
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In addition to stocking up on colored pigments and water balloons, you'll want to make sure you have plenty of festive seasonal foods on hand, such as gujiya (which are fried dough pockets stuffed with deliciousness), mathri (which is a flaky biscuit-like snack), and malpuas (which are fried pancakes), among many others. Garg has a fabulous baked gujiya recipe for you to check out if you want a healthier way to celebrate.

Plant seeds

when is holi plant seeds for spring flowers
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According to Garg, another great way to celebrate the arrival of spring is to plant seeds for spring flowers. Planting seeds is a fun and easy activity to do with little ones on Holi — not to mention that it also teaches children about responsibility as they learn to care for their plants on a daily basis. An indoor flower grow kit can help you get started.

Make Rangoli

when is holi make rangoli
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Rangoli is an art decoration drawn on the floor or the entrances of homes, and it's thought to bring good luck and prosperity to the house and guests. Some Hindus make Rangoli every morning, while others only do it on special festive occasions, like Diwali or Holi. If you're not up for making an original Rangoli art design yourself with colored powder, then you can buy a kit that'll help you create mess-free Rangoli sand art, colorful Rangoli coasters, or even an easy Rangoli puzzle.

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