Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, has become increasingly popular throughout the United States in recent years. And despite the coronavirus pandemic, Holi’s purpose — to welcome spring and affirm the triumph of good over evil — remains as meaningful as ever.
But many U.S.-based Holi festivals will be postponed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For example, the India Cultural Center of Utah, located in South Jordan, Utah, plans to celebrate Holi (March 28–29 this year in the United States) sometime between June and September, “depending on how vaccinations are rolled out” and on Utah’s restrictions, says Swapna Gudipaty, the group’s treasurer.
For those who want to keep the March date, the cultural center will have a small prayer celebration in the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple of Utah and will post it online. Gudipaty said the center will also keep the temple and cultural center open for a few hours for devotées who preregister to visit.
The rites of Holi, pre- and post-pandemic
A Holi celebration hosted by the India Cultural Center of Utah usually starts out with a short prayer to welcome spring’s arrival and the victory of good over evil, followed by nonreligious rituals that involve people tossing a variety of colored powders onto each other.
The colors in Holi have meaning, Gudipaty explained: Red symbolizes fertility, green signifies something new, and yellow — particularly the rich, golden hue of the spice turmeric — represents purity.
In a more typical year, the center would sell Indian food and host a band, which would have everyone dancing to Bollywood hits and Indian folk music. “At the India Cultural Center, we view Holi as a festival that brings our entire community together,” Gudipaty said. “We not only celebrate our traditions, but welcome spring in a unique way each year, as is done in India and all across the world now.”
“Holi is not just about honoring cultural beliefs,” she said. It also is “a way to spread friendship, happiness and love.”
Looking ahead, communities in Utah — and elsewhere — are hopeful about celebrating Holi “in person, without the worry of a pandemic, in 2022.”