Festival of Holi

By Larry Bleiberg, Special for USA TODAY - 22.3 2017

10 great places to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi

 

 

If you’ve started to notice clouds of color every spring, it’s not your imagination. The Hindu festival of Holi (pronounced “holy”), which involves throwing brightly colored powders, is spreading around the globe, says Ravi M. Gupta, a religion professor at Utah State University. “It’s well known now. I don’t need to tell my students what Holi is. It has spawned this whole industry of colorfests and charity color runs.” The religious holiday marks the return of spring, and he says everyone is welcome to join in the “playing of colors.” While the holiday starts on March 12 this year, festival dates may vary. Gupta shares some favorite Holi celebrations with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.

Spanish Fork, Utah

Surprisingly, this Provo-area festival is the main reason Holi is celebrated across the country. Started in 1989, it now attracts close to 70,000 participants — many of them students from nearby Brigham Young University. “This festival has really been the catalyst,” says Gupta. It’s based at a local Hare Krishna temple, which now sponsors similar fetes in other cities. “It really has become a part of Utah culture. It’s good clean fun.” Held March 25-26. utahkrishnas.org

Houston

The booming Texas metropolis has been called the nation’s most multicultural city, which means there’s plenty of Holi going around, Gupta says. “Houston will have dozens of festivals around the city. You have the big ones that are planned and advertised and you have all the rest which are done spontaneously.” One of the largest, scheduled for March 25, includes Indian street food, a foam party and Bollywood-style dances. houstonholi.com

South El Monte, Calif.

Southern California holds a host of Holi events. But this L.A.-area celebration, scheduled for March 11, is one of the biggest, engulfing a local park with clouds of color. It includes the distinctly American innovation of having scheduled color throws with a countdown, announced from a stage with bands. “It creates this beautiful tapestry of different colors and everyone becomes multicolor with these clouds of reds and pinks and blue. It’s quite a magical environment,” Gupta says. festivalofcolorsla.com

Barsana, India 

One of India’s famous celebrations takes place in this town the day before Holi is traditionally celebrated. “It’s probably the wildest Holi of them all,” Gupta says.  Even today, men journey to the village and women bombard them with colors and sticks, and chase them away. “Those who get caught have to dance and become a source of amusement. It’s pretty raucous.” uptourism.gov.in

Moundsville, W.Va.

A temple southwest of Pittsburgh serves as a pilgrimage site, and its Holi celebration attracts large crowds, drawn by colors, live music and yoga. “This is an idyllic tiny, little place with beautiful natural surroundings. People come from all over the eastern United States, both Indians and non-Indians,” Gupta says. This year’s celebration will be held Sept. 16. festivalofcolors.us

Boston

Holi has taken root on college campuses and given the large number of students in the Boston area, you can expect lots of powdered color to fly at area celebrations.  A family-themed event, Let’s Play Holi, will be held April 8 in nearby Lexington, and includes a Holi parade. letsplayholi.eventbrite.com

Potomac, Md.

Washington’s Indian community heads to a temple in the D.C. suburbs to throw its colors. The six-year-old Holi DC event, scheduled for May 7, expects to attract 6,500 celebrants, and includes a full vegetarian meal. “It’s on a rolling green area. It’s a really beautiful location,” Gupta says. holidc.com

New Brunswick, N.J.

The Garden State has a huge Indian community with celebrations planned throughout the region. While many are held at nightclubs and geared for adults, the New Brunswick Free Public Library sponsors a family-themed celebration in partnership with Rutgers University’s Indian graduate students and other groups. The April 1 event includes crafts, performances and an all-out color war on the front lawn. (Although participants aren’t allowed back inside after the onslaught.) nbfpl.org

Boise

Gupta’s hometown has been welcoming Holi since 1987, making it one of the oldest celebrations in the country. “It’s a much smaller festival that has a very intimate feel to it.” Sponsored by the local Hindu community, participants play colors in the traditional manner, and celebrate with an Indian meal. This year’s date hasn’t been finalized, but is expected to be in late April or early May. boisetemple.org

London

With a huge Indian population, London may be the best place to experience Holi this side of the subcontinent, Gupta says. “If you go to the borough of Harrow or other parts of London, it feels like you’re walking in India or an Indian marketplace.” There also are numerous parties, banquets and ticketed events around the city. visitbritain.com/us/en