The Sky is Gray So Color My Face. Holi Hai!

I celebrate the arrival of spring with picnics, walks in the park, and blasting “Good Day Sunshine” as I pack away heavy sweaters to make room for sundresses in my closet. This is pretty standard for women in my age bracket in New York City. We celebrate spring with an iced coffee in hand, displaying freshly manicured toes, as we walk our winter coats to the dry cleaner.

All over the world people are celebrating the turn of the season. Some by hiding colorful eggs, others by eating bitter herbs, others by throwing colorful powder in each other’s faces.

The thought of having anything thrown at your face may make you cringe, but as I learned yesterday, it’s much more fun than it initially sounds.

NYC Bhangra’s great, super friendly event staff

Yesterday I found myself at NYC Bhangra’s Holi Hai festival. This Hindu celebration of spring has a religious aspect to it, but like an Easter egg hunt, that was not the focus of this festival. As I learned from Wikipedia (excuse my source) traditional Holi allowed for a loosening of rigid social structures. A joyous day where all people (men, women, rich, poor) enjoy the presence of each other and “no one expects polite behavior” (yes, I’m quoting Wikipedia). A main tradition of the festival involves colored powders, representing the return of color to the natural world. These are thrown in the air and smeared on people’s faces for good luck. The result is a colorful, messy, mad scene.

It’s a tradition that has been carried on for centuries, as you can see in this 1788 painting (image courtesy Wikipedia).

At first I tried to resist the colors. I was working a promotion. I was wearing my roommate’s new blazer. I hadn’t planned on getting messy. That didn’t last long. One of the guys walking around with a tray of colors came up to me and said “Happy Holi!”, dipped his hand in color, and brought it to my face. I let him.

These guys let me take their picture, but I paid a price: smears of green and pink on my forehead. Worth it.

Normally a stranger coming up to me and smearing sh*t on my face would send me into a fit of rage. But with the positive energy of the festival, the feeling of excitement, the togetherness with strangers who would normally avoid eye contact, how could I not participate? No one gets more excited about the return of color than me. Besides, as the cliché goes, “When in Rome…”

I was not alone in this experience, by 4PM it was a rare face that was not coated in color.

 And it wasn’t just young people either. There was good diversity, both of age and ethnicity.

Fabulous ladies and plenty of families.

There was lots of music, dancing, and food.

These tiny dancers were adorable and did a very good job with their performance. I bet that’s where these lovely ladies got their start!

An incredibly fun festival. The perfect day to inject with color: it overcast and cloudy, the first gray day New York had seen all week. I wish every cloudy day we could throw color at things!

I left the festival with a big smile on my face. It only grew bigger as I walked home and noticed how many people were staring at me. I had color smeared all over my face! Some of them were jealous, some of them thought I was crazy. If you saw me, or any one else with a colorful face yesterday, now you know why!

Happy Holi!

I love learning how other people celebrate spring! What about you? How do you celebrate the season?

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

6 thoughts on “The Sky is Gray So Color My Face. Holi Hai!

  1. Wow, that looks like so much fun! And the pictures are great, especially the one of the Indian women in their beautiful clothes; it makes my usual sweater and jeans look dull in comparison.
    We had one unseasonably warm week in March that made all the Chicagoans very confused, because “warm” and “Chicago” are not usually used in the same sentence, except when it’s summer. It’s back to being cold now and everyone’s bundled up again, sighhh…

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