What is Holi?

I have an app on my phone for US holidays and March 19-20 this year is listed as "Holi." First I thought I had probably typed the wrong word on my calendar and was trying to figure out what this was supposed to be. However, I dug a little deeper....


What is Holi?

So, Holi is a Hindu celebration that marks the arrival of Spring. It is also known as the Holiday of Colors and celebrates fertility, love and the triumph of good over evil. The origins of the holiday are found in Hindu mythological stories one of which tells of a demon, Holika, and her brother, King Hiranyakashipu. "King Hiranyakashipu believed that everyone should worship him as a god. His son, Prahlada, refused to do so, opting to worship the Hindu god Vishnu instead.

Spurred by his son's disobedience, the king and his sister Holika plotted to kill Prahlada. As part of their plans, Holika lured Prahlada onto a pyre in an attempt to burn him to death.

While sitting on the pyre with Prahlada, Holika donned a magical shawl that protected her from the fire. However, as the pyre burned, the shawl flew from Holika's shoulders onto Prahlada's, resulting in the demon perishing in the flames.

Vishnu, the god whom Prahlada had chosen to worship instead of his father, then appeared. Taking the form of a half man and half lion, the god killed the treacherous king."

Although India is separated into different regions, all regions celebrate Holi in one way or another. Since its the festival of color, different color dyes are frequently smeared on the face and there is a celebration around what we (Americans) would consider a very large bonfire.

Holi Foods

Traditional Holi foods include Dahi Wada which is, "made with urad dal and moong dal, this Holi dish is basically deep fried dumplings that are soaked in thick yogurt and topped with red chilli, chat masala and cumin powder along with tangy tamarind chutney." Another traditional dish is Malpua, "dish is made with all purpose flour, milk and sugar that is deep fried and has a strong flavour of cardamom."

Health Risks of the Festival of Colors

Because the dyes used to stain the skin can contain toxic chemicals, it is advisable to take precautions:

1. Prepare your skin with coconut oil. This helps to reduce the cutaneous absorption of the dye chemicals.

2. Try to use "natural" dyes versus commercially produced ones.

3. Don't allow the dye to enter your mouth or nose.

4. Do not use dark colors which can permanently stain your skin.

5. Skin allergies are common when using deeply pigmented dyes so when cleaning off, don't vigorously scrub.

6. Be especially cautious with children and infants to ensure they don't rub the dyes into their eyes.

7. For people with asthma or other respiratory illnesses, it may be advisable to forego or scale back the use of dye.

8. Take care that children don't ingest the dye.

Where to celebrate Holi in the US?

Spanish Fork, Utah seems to be the center of the US celebration of Holi. Close to 70,000 people gather there in March to celebrate the coming of Spring. Nearby Brigham Young University supplies many celebrants.

Houston hosts another very large Holi celebration. Everyone is invited to join in the celebration. In fact, Houston hosts several Holi celebrations ranging from huge street parties with food vendors and dancing to small, neighborhood gatherings.

Although Holi is a celebration of inclusivity and welcomes people of all faiths, it should be remembered that this is a religious holiday and appropriate celebrating should be the goal.

Happy Holi!


Happy Holi - Don't Forget to Follow Precautions

Ten Great Places to Celebrate the Hindu Festival of Holi

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Specializes in Pediatrics. Has 8 years experience.

Is the correct pronunciation what I'm thinking of, like the word "holy"? Or a longer o sound, like "holly"?

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

153 Articles; 21,232 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 31 years experience.

It is pronounced "holly".

I forgot to mention too that this is origin of "color runs" here in the US which I thought was interesting.


217 Posts

Has 1 years experience.

That is very interesting.


334 Posts

I love this holiday and all of the colors. Glad to see it’s practiced here in the US too.


1,481 Posts

It's been culturally appropriated by non-Hindus because of the audacious and colorful nature of it. It is fun and cool to watch, but the original intent has most definitely been Westernized.