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Colorful Ways to Celebrate Holi This Year

Beyond what the festival represents traditionally, what I especially love about Holi as a mom is that it allows kids to be kids and make a mess.

Colorful Ways to Celebrate Holi This Year

Credit: Avani Modi Sarkar

Holi is the Hindu festival of colors where people gather and rejoice in the arrival of spring. It is celebrated annually every February or March, and the festivities occur around the globe, with all ages joining in on the fun. The day before Holi (known as Holika or Choti Holi), we light bonfires to symbolize the triumph of good over evil, and then on Holi, we play with colored powders or colored water with friends and family.

The two days are filled with traditional snacks and sweets like gujiya and thandai. While holidays can often be stressful by adding more to our to-do list, Holi is one of those rare holidays where it's a time to connect with our local community and let our hair down.

The origins of Holi

Holi dates back thousands of years, so its origin story varies, but it is always centered around Lord Vishnu and one of his avatars, Narasimha. Despite being known as the festival of (bright) colors, Holi has a rather dark origin story about a little boy who defied death (from the hands of his father, no less), and was eventually rescued with the help of Lord Vishnu.

In a different, more playful scenario, the story dates back to Lord Krishna, who tried to woo his beloved Radha. As a blue-skinned boy, Krishna was never meant to fit in, but for just once, he tried—not by changing the color of his skin, but that of those around him. And that's how the tradition of throwing colors began, as the story goes.

Holi follows the lunar calendar and falls one week before Easter this year. On the last weekend of March, my family will get dressed up in white shirts and waterproof shoes and venture out to our backyard to throw colored powder at each other. (Pro tip: always buy extra powder. And no, you will never have enough). We'll also do DIY craft activities and read some of our favorite holiday books to expand our children's understanding of Hindu culture.

Author Avani and her family celebrating Holi Credit: Avani Modi Sarkar

How you can celebrate and educate your children about Holi

Whether you're seeking out opportunities to expand your children's knowledge and awareness of Indian culture or you're hoping to help your second-generation kids connect with their heritage more, there are so many ways to celebrate tradition. Raising Hindu American kids is this constant balancing act of assimilating with the North American culture and ensuring my kids trick or treat in their Halloween costumes but also dress up in chaniya choli to do garba during Navratri.

The weekend after Holi, we will be outside in the backyard with the kids, except this time, for an Easter egg hunt.

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It's this constant push towards the North American way of life, but being pulled towards your Indian roots.

Luckily, books are a simple way to bridge the two cultures. There are several great children's books that I recommend adding to your bedtime routine to round out the festivities. If you introduce Holi with fun, digestible stories and pictures, kids can begin to understand how ancient Hindu theology and cultural values tie into the modern festival. You can find these options on Amazon:

bowls and cups filled with colorful powder in preparation for Holi celebrations Credit: Avani Modi Sarkar

Get messy! That's the magic of Holi colors

Beyond what the festival represents traditionally, what I especially love about Holi as a mom is that it allows kids to be kids and make a mess. Play outside. Play with colors. Color way outside the lines. Here's some things to keep in mind:

  • Little kids can get excited by the colors, so grab extra powder packets. You don't want to run out just when the fun is getting started.
  • Plan for changes of clothes for everyone.
    • Once you're done playing with colors, you can shake off or wipe off as much powder as possible before applying water. While the colors will easily come out of hair and skin, a slight tint may remain stubborn on clothes and shoes, depending on the material. Gather up everyone's clothing and throw it in the wash on cold.

Originally, Holi colors were made from flowers and herbs, but synthetic options are everywhere nowadays. That's why we offer non-toxic powder packs at Modi Toys, made from naturally procured, organic ingredients such as cornstarch, flowers and food-grade colors that have been lab-tested for utmost safety.

Weather-proof Activities

Having three kids ages 2, 4 and 7, I like to have alternative activities to color play in case the weather isn't conducive to being outdoors. Colored powder is a great multipurpose medium for arts and crafts projects.

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You can cover a sheet of paper with a glue stick and sift some colored powder over the top, or add some to a spray bottle with water to add fun splatters of color to a drawing.

Or you could even add an interactive, sensory element to an artwork: blend powder, glitter, and water in a Ziploc bag and tape it behind a cutout of a Pichkari (a water syringe typically used for spraying water during the Holi festival).

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Try this STEM experiment to experience the magic of the colors more explosively for an extra educational element.

Author:

Avani Modi Sarkar is the co-founder of Modi Toys, a line of award-winning plush Hindu deities that have become a fan favorite for South Asians in the US and globally. Since founding the company in 2018 with her brother, Viral Modi,  Avani has received recognition for her entrepreneurial spirit as a member of the Forbes Next 1000 list, named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year New Jersey Finalist, and a Tory Burch fellow, and was a part of Inc’s 2021 Female Founders 100.

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