Holi, what is it?

Holi is a Hindu festival widely celebrated in India. It is the second biggest festival after Diwali.

It is often called the festival of colors. You will quickly understand why.

The Origins of the Holi Celebrations

We celebrate Holi to celebrate spring, the victory of good over evil, of light over darkness.

According to Hindu mythology, the story of Holi is as follows: King Hiranyakashipu ruled and demanded the reverence of his people.

However, his son Prahlad preferred to worship the God Vishnu. Colliding in his ego, the king wanted to put his son to the test and tried several times to kill him, in vain.

He asked for help from his sister Holika and her special gift of fire resistance. The king challenged his son to lie down in the flames with his aunt Holika.

Prahlad accepted. When they both, Prahlad and Holika, we set ablaze, Prahlad was saved by the gods' gift of fire resistance which was meant to save Holika. Holika was punished for her vanity and did not survive the fire, despite her gift.

The day before Holi, a fire is lit, and prayers are said. Evil is left to make way for new blessings, light, and spring.

The next day Holi is celebrated. Colored powders are thrown during a battle mixing fun and joy.

Celebrating Holi in India

Good to know: the date of Holi changes every year. Holi is celebrated on the full moon in the month of Phalguna in the Hindu calendar (usually in March in our calendar)

Holi dates: (subject to change)

  • Holi 2021: March 29
  • Holi 2022: March 18
  • Holi 2023: March 8
  • Holi 2024: March 25
celebrating holi in india

Where to celebrate Holi?

Celebrating Holi in India is an incredible and unforgettable experience.
All over India, you will find the color, color powder battles, joy, and festivities at the time of Holi.
One of the most famous places to celebrate Holi in India is Mathura.

Mathura is located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, 50km north of Agra (where the Taj Mahal is located) and 125km from New Delhi.

It is an important place of pilgrimage as it is the birthplace of Krishna. You will also find many expatriates living there in the community, worshiping the God Krishna.

In Mathura, celebrations for Holi start early and are grand. You will start to see celebrations more than a week before the exact date of Holi.

Holi Festival in Mathura

It's an incredible experience on paper. However, some information should be noted to fully enjoy this party.

To celebrate Holi in Mathura, you must not be afraid of the world, the crowd, the jostling. People are not always gentle. Namely, the Indians do not have the notion of social distancing and the private sphere. Often when queuing in the shops, you can feel it, so you can quickly feel overwhelmed at a party of this magnitude.

Alicia and Lilian from @vadrouilleursdumonde celebrated Holi in Mathura and got a little suffocated. As she explained, there weren't many tourists, so all the Indians "focused" on them and felt a bit overwhelmed.

A friend also told me she faced inappropriate gestures when celebrating Holi with her friend in India. Some people allow themselves wandering hands and inappropriate gestures, and when there are a lot of people it's sometimes difficult to get by (a bit like in the metro in Paris at peak time)

How to celebrate Holi?

You have two options to celebrate Holi: in the street or at a private party.

In the street, nothing special to organize: buy some colored powder and let yourself be carried away by the current. Always be careful with your belongings, and avoid busy streets to avoid abuse.

In this video, Emmett Sparling vlogs his trip to India and ends with the Holi experience on the streets. We can see that the Indians are super happy, excited to celebrate Holi, and even more happy to see foreigners participate. He evokes the "chaos" that we feel and people under the influence of alcohol which are often off-limits: a group of young people rip his shirt outright.  

Also this video of Jack Morris is telling about Holi in Barsana, Nandgaon, and Vrindavan.

You will find many videos on YouTube or Instagram of Holi in Mathura or, more generally, in India's streets. You will therefore be able to identify the type of experience you will have.

The second option is the one I recommend. Fun, but more secure and 'quiet': so-called 'private' parties.

Hotels, restaurants, or venues often organize celebrations for the Holi festival. On the program: DJ, garden/dance floor fitted out with shade and rain, like a music festival in France.

These events are more secure and "calm". This is the option we have chosen. I explain all this in detail below.

We were in Pune then and chose to participate in the Pune Color Festival. Here is, for example, the video of the Pune Color Festival of 2019 to picture the concept.

Private party for Holi: Pune Color Festival

My experience of Holi in India

As I explained, we celebrated Holi at a private party organized by a hotel.
Tickets, in early booking (reserved on March 1 for the March 18 celebration) were at 800 rupees per couple, or less than €10 for entry for 2 people.

We booked on book my show where you can see all the events available by location and book the one that suits you.

We had brought a few packets of colored powders, but you can find some on-site for 50 rupees (less than 1€).

personnes qui dansent pour holi
Holi in India

I loved this celebration; it was a dream to celebrate Holi in India. I'm glad we chose to celebrate at a private party because I felt safe and could enjoy it to the fullest. I danced like crazy; I almost made my father-in-law blind with the colored powder (sorry again 😅). It was really a fun party.

I also appreciated the garden arrangements with shadow and the "rains" (because without shadow and without water, I think dancing and splashing colors under 36° would have been way less fun!)

holi, fĂȘte des couleurs en Inde

Holi with children

I was asked on Instagram if it was possible to celebrate Holi in India as a single mom with a 4-year-old child. I would say, why not! But take precautions and organize yourself as well as possible.

In this situation, I recommend choosing a private party rather than celebrating in the street even more. My suggestion: celebrate in the hotel where you are staying. Choose to book a hotel that offers a party for Holi like this if your child (or even you) are fed up or tired; you're not far away.

This kind of celebration can be exhausting, and the colors can be unpleasant, so it's necessary to have a room, a shower, and comfort nearby.

In any case, nothing is impossible, and I strongly encourage you to try it if you feel like it. It's a really fun and amazing celebration that I'm sure the kids love!

celebrer holi en inde avec des enfants
Parents and children having fun while celebrating Holi.

Some tips to remember to celebrate Holi in India:

  • Prefer a private party for more comfort and security
  • Avoid spaces that are too busy to limit inconvenience
  • Before the celebration, cover your body and hair with oil to protect yourself from powders. It will also be easier to remove the colors afterward.
  • Sunglasses are required to protect yourself against colors
  • Wear loose clothes. I would suggest a long kurta, which you can turn around to wipe your eyes from time to time
  • Always be careful with people who are too friendly, or a little too clingy (especially if you are a woman, they might just want to take advantage of you)
  • Pay attention to your personal belongings. Leave as many things as possible at the hotel.

Well... Are you ready for Holi 2023 ???