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LVHN Colleagues Offer Personal Anecdotes and Insights to Celebrate Holi

Holi is a Hindu holiday that falls on March 25 this year

Henna Sethi is a practitioner consultant with Lehigh Valley Physician Group. Roohi Gupta, PhD, is a radiation physicist with Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute. They are active members of Asian/South Asian CARES (Colleagues Aligned as Resources for Engagement and Support) Group. With Holi quickly approaching, they collaborate to share their personal connection with the celebration.  

The arrival of spring brings the beautiful and much-awaited Hindu festival, Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors. Per the Hindu calendar, it is a lunar celebration that starts on March 25 this year. People who celebrate joyfully throw colored powders and water at each other, also called color and water fights, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil and the arrival of warmer, brighter days. The powder is influenced by ayurveda, a system of traditional medicine native to India. It’s a time for unity, forgiving others for past wrongdoings, festive gatherings and sharing joy. 

Understanding the cultural and spiritual significance adds depth to the vibrant hues of the festival.

Because this festival comes in the spring, we also traditionally wish for a rich harvest for the year. We feel love in the air as we celebrate with each other, which originally represents the eternal and divine love of deities Radha and Krishna.

Hindu mythology stories

Holi is also associated with various Hindu mythology stories, and one of the most popular is the tale of Holika and Prahlad. Prahlad, a devout follower of Lord Vishnu, was persecuted by his father, Hiranyakashipu, who considered himself a god. Holika, Hiranyakashipu's sister, had a boon that made her immune to fire. Hiranyakashipu ordered Holika to sit with Prahlad in a pyre so that his son would be killed. However, due to Prahlad's unwavering devotion to Vishnu, he emerged unharmed while Holika was consumed by the flames because her intentions were evil. This event signifies the victory of devotion and good over evil. Holi is celebrated to commemorate this triumph, with the bonfire known as "Holika Dahan" marking the burning of evil forces. The color and water fight comes from the legend of Lord Krishna, a Hindu god who is also worshipped on Holi. According to the mythological stories, Krishna was well-known for playing pranks and being mischievous. One prank he played on the village girls involved throwing colors and water on them. Over time, putting colors and throwing water one each other on Holi became representative of a traditional way to express joy.

Being mindful to people observing Holi

Be sure to use “Happy Holi” as the greeting to those observing the Holi festival on March 25. On this day, we approach everyone with a smile, unite with individuals, end conflicts, set aside egos and concerns and just enjoy the day in each other’s company. The intention is to spread joy.

Sethi describes the busyness of her childhood neighborhood during Holi

Back home in India as a child, I would wait for this holiday to arrive and start preparing a day ahead by first setting aside a piece of clothing that I would wear with the intent not to reuse, since it would be ruined by playing with colors. Then, I would prepare several buckets of water balloons and purchase bright colored powder packs for the festive day. We wanted the darker colors because those last longer on the skin and demonstrate the intensity with which we celebrated Holi when people saw us for the next few days. On the day of the festival, our house would be filled with the aroma of special foods prepared by my mom. Friends and family would swing by, and we would smear color on each other and enjoy the prepared food. Then, they would move on to the next house and greet everyone on their way. In between visits, we would throw water balloons among friends or passerby on the street. It was always a bit crazy to walk on the streets that day.

Gupta describes traditions of Holi

While growing up in India, Holi was one of my favorite festivals to celebrate. My Holi celebrations were filled with vibrant colors, joyful water balloon fights and the delightful aroma of traditional food like gujiya, a sweet pastry stuffed with mawa and dry fruits. I have memories of creating muddy water patches, dragging friends into the fun and dancing. All of these represent the true spirit of Holi, a festival that blends playfulness, togetherness and delicious traditions.

Holi is one festival day of the year when people can embrace each other with love by setting aside differences, enjoying each other’s company and sharing positive thoughts. It goes beyond just the colorful festivities. It’s a celebration of unity, breaking down barriers and embracing the joy of shared humanity. Understanding the cultural and spiritual significance adds depth to the vibrant hues of the festival.


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