The first time Holi Hai was brought to my attention was when photos of my friends covered in paint started surfacing on Facebook. The sight of my friends looking like fools covered in blue, green and pink powder made me instantly want to get involved. I was told it was for Holly day? What was this magical event, I soon realised I was pronouncing it wrong and it wasn’t a day celebrating the spiky British Christmas plant but was in fact an Indian celebration of colour called Holi Hai.
Although Holi Hai is primarily an Indian and Nepalese event it is now being celebrated more and more around the world. Busan, in Korea holds an annual Holi Hai event on the beach in March (or during the first full moon of spring) which is exactly where I headed this year.
We were advised to wear white and that we would be getting messy but I wanted to know a little more so I started to research. Holi Hai is a day dedicated to colour. It celebrates many things such as the arrival of spring, victory of good over evil, laughter and joy. What’s not to love about a festival like that?
The tradition is to have a bonfire the night before named the Holika bonfire and the next morning is a free-for-all carnival of colour and sound. No one is safe in Holi Hai. Strangers will throw colour at you, spray paint and douse you in water balloons.
The Sunday we celebrated started off with lots of dancing on the beach. People showed us the traditional Indian dance moves and we tried our best to perform them. We threw paint, swam in the sea and ate delicious Indian food.
The paint is mostly in powder form so be wary of getting it in your eyes and don’t expect your white clothes to ever be white again.
We didn’t have to deal with this problem in Korea but be advised if you go to an authentic Holi Hai festival in India that most drinks that are given out will contain Bhang, an ingredient similar to cannabis that is meant to enhance the day. Many unsuspecting foreigners have fallen into the trap of taking a sip without knowing what they are agreeing to.
For Hindus (or just people of Indian decent) this is an important time of year to forgive your foes and celebrate life. I will definitely be making sure that any travels I take to India or Nepal will be linking up with this festival.
Have you celebrated at the real Holi Hai? What was it like? Would you recommend it? Have you any funny stories to share from your Korean Holi Hai experience or been slipped some Bhang by accident? Let us know your thoughts and stories. We look forward to hearing from you.