Holi

"This spring, think about what colors have special meaning for you and make sure you create, design, play, and/or throw those colors out into the world. It’s time to think about what our new beginning will look like in a post-Covid-19 world," writes Indian American author Dr. Amita Roy Shah. Above: Indian laborers dry colored powder for the upcoming Holi, the spring festival of colors, at a field in Jyoti Nagar village on the outskirts of Siliguri on March 19, 2021. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP via Getty Images)

The harsh reality is that we have been in socially distancing since Spring 2020. This one-year mark, and the fact that vaccinations will soon be available, calls for a celebration of changing times and seasons. We all know our post-Covid-19 world will never be the same again, but one thing is for clear, the things we do moving forward from this – walking outside, going to a restaurant, traveling – will have new meaning and significance in our lives.

Let’s take a look at Chhoti Holi (small holi) which takes place the day before Holi with bonfires. (Holi this year falls on March 28.) The bonfire is symbolic because people sing and dance in hopes of overcoming negativity and getting rid of bad thoughts, ideas, and deeds for the previous year (2020). I think we can all relate to wanting to overcome our fears, anxieties, and other life stressors and changes that resulted from Covid-19.

The bonfires also remind me of the importance of being able to gather with friends and families. During Covid-19, we bought a fire pit so that we could see people outside in our backyard – and it reminds me of how we are all in this together, the good, the bad, the ugly. Humans are social creatures and we have to remember that social connections and bonds are what allow for us to live healthy, meaningful, and joyful lives.

The next day is the bigger Holi celebration. This is when we wear white to throw colored power (gulal) or colored water (pani) on one another. This is a celebration of fun and laughter! The theme is new beginnings. It’s about starting the year off by forgetting about the debts and resentments we have carried with us – and learning to forgive one another, renew old relationships and create new relationships with one another.

In rural parts of India, Holi signifies the end of harsh winters and unsuccessful crops. With the coming of spring, farmers can look to forward to harvesting their wheat. The theme of love, goodness, and renewal are all part of coming together and celebrating with one another.

Rainbows are also a magical part of the spring season, a symbol of hope in many cultures. Rainbows signify better times are to come, they symbolize a bridge between the old world and the new world, and they represent solidarity with one another. Since the lockdown in Europe started last March, colorful images of rainbows have been appearing in windows across the globe. I love looking at the colorful arcs on rainbows and am always fascinated when I see one on a gloomy, rainy day.

When I think of colors, I think of how colors can represent the different feelings or moods that I’m in – but colors also signify different meanings for many of our Hindu rituals, traditions, and ceremonies:

Red (vermillion): love, fertility, matrimony

Orange (saffron): sacred color worn by holy men and women

Yellow: knowledge and learning, happiness, and peace (associated with Goddess Saraswati, Lord Vishnu, Krishna, and Ganesha who are often wearing yellow)

Blue: limitlessness of the sky and universe, life-sustaining like the color of water (associated with some Gods who are blue-toned)

White: represents purity, new beginnings, and death. At funerals, Hindus often wear white as a symbol of rebirth.

This spring, think about what colors have special meaning for you and make sure you create, design, play, and/or throw those colors out into the world. It’s time to think about what our new beginning will look like in a post-Covid-19 world. Who will you forgive? What will you forget? What will you change? What will you keep? What will you create? What will you re-imagine for your life moving forward?

(The information for this blog post was adapted from the Hindu American Foundation’s Holi’s ToolKit. Dr. Amita Roy Shah is an Indian American author, educator, and entrepreneur. She is the founder of My Social Edge.com and Hybrid Parenting.org. She is an adjunct professor at San Jose State University and also the author of "It’s Time for Holi!," "Lights, Camera, Diwali!," and "Brain-Based EQ for Kids!")

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