Traditions Field Note: Holi, a Hindu Holiday

Most of the people of Nepal follows a religion called Hinduism. Someone who practices this religion is called a Hindu.

 

Every month there so many Hindu holidays. One month I counted up to eight! I am pretty lucky in that I have had the chance to celebrate most of them.

 

Of all the holidays, my favorite holiday is called Holi! For two days, I can hear people yelling, “Happy Holi” at all times of the day. It is the most colorful holiday in Nepal. People call it the festival of colors and the start of spring.

What tradition did I learn about?

On March 25, I went to sleep knowing that the next day was a holiday and I could sleep in. I was excited that I did not have to wake up at 6:00am. The next morning I woke up at 9:00am to a pounding at my door. I yelled, “Who is it? I thought I could sleep in today.” It was my Nepali friend. He asked me to open the door. I opened the door to. I heard “HAPPY HOLI!” and then he threw a handful of blue and yellow paint on my face!

 

It was that moment I learned about Holi. It is a wonderful holiday where people throw paint, of all colors, at each other. I went into town to get paint to throw at my friends! By the end of the day I looked like a rainbow.

 

Like most holidays we celebrate in the U.S., there is a lot of food. I ate so much that day! When I was not eating, I was dancing. Yes, I learned how to dance Nepali-style. I had the time of my life. I consider the first day of Holi to be one of my favorite days in Nepal.

 

Why does the community have this tradition?

Holi is a holiday rooted in Hinduism. The word Holi come from the name “Holika.” Holika was the sister of the great king of demons. This king and his sister were granted everlasting life by a Hindu god, Brahma. The king and his sister could not die. They tried everything; nothing manmade or natural could harm them.

 

After a while, the king became cocky. He demanded that his people worship him instead of the gods. The king’s son continued to worship the Hindu gods, though. He did not think his father was worthy of worship. This angered the king, so he tried to kill his son several ways. First he tried to poison his son, then he tried to trample him with elephants, and he even tried to feed his son to a snake. The king’s attempts failed. Finally, the king told his son he had to sit on his Aunt Holi’s lap and he would be burned to death. The king thought this was a brilliant idea because his sister could not burn and she could hold the son in place to ensure his death! When the fire started, though, Holika was burned to death and the son was protected from the fire. As a result, Holi is celebrated to praise the salvation of the son, who was devoted to the gods, and the death of Holika, who was prideful.

 

Is this tradition connected to its environment? How?

Yes, this tradition is connected to the environment. This holiday, the festival of colors, marks the start of spring. The colors represent the rebirth of nature. This time of the season, there are blooms on the fruit trees, new vegetation, and plenty of flowers. Spring is an important season in Nepal as this is the start of farming and preparing for the monsoon season, a season where farmers grow their rice for the next year.

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