Holi Cultural Festival Celebrations around the World

Matthew MacLachlan

20 Mar 2013

As winter comes to an end and the month of March begins, excitement and anticipation is brought to the Hindu population of India; this is when the Holi festival starts. The word ‘Holi’ derives from the word ‘hola’, which is a thank you to the Almighty for the harvest. This is why Holi is celebrated as winter ends and the Spring Harvest begins.

People of all ages celebrate Holi by throwing coloured powder at each other’s faces, smearing coloured water everywhere, dancing under water sprinklers and having parties. Originating in India several centuries before Christ, Holi has now become a global festival, celebrated by thousands all around the world every year. This is because despite Holi being a Hindu festival, all cultures and religions are allowed to participate as it represents a single and global value: life.

Anyone living and working in another countryshould be aware of Holi and the impact that it may have on social and business life. While most people focus on how Holi is celebrated in countries like India with a large Hindu population, here are a few unique examples of how this beautiful cultural festival is celebrated in other places around the world.

Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, Holi is celebrated in a similar way to the traditional festivities in India, but it tends to revolve more around music and the arts as opposed to the religious context of Indian Holi. Along with what is known in LA as ‘Colour Throws’, there are also bands playing, yoga classes, mantras, dances and cuisine. The festival takes place at Excelsior High School in Norwalk, Los Angeles. Even though the Los Angeles Holi is very much a different festival from the Indian Holi, the organisers of the festival, the Utah Hari Krishna Temple, are very aware of the importance of the Holi tradition. They believe “The colour, noise and entertainment that accompanies the celebration of Holi bears witness to a feeling of oneness and sense of brotherhood.”


No official Holi festival had been celebrated in the whole of Europe until July 2012 when Berlin decided to bring the colourful and joyful event to Germany. Held in METAXA Beach, the Berlin Holi festival maintains the Hinduism roots of Holi and like Los Angeles, it adds an arts and music twist to the traditional festivals celebrated in India and other Hindu countries. Up and coming Indian DJs are invited to play during the festival as well as professional Hindu acrobats and dancers, both incorpo-rating the original values into their festival. Berlin is no longer alone as three other German cities, Munich, Dresden and Hannover, held Holi festivals which were attended by over 25,000 people. This year Holi is planned to be celebrated in 12 German cities including Dortmund, Essen, Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Leipzig, Leverkusen, Mannheim, Saarbrücken and Stuttgart. All of these events are organ-ised in cooperation with the official Indian tourism office and have the support of the Indian Embassy in Berlin.

Cape Town

In the shadow of Table Mountain, the Grand Parade hosted Holi on 2 March this year. The open air atmosphere, described as ‘magical’, attracted over 10,000 people. Local DJs played and there were hourly colour throws. Like the other festivals, the organisers kept the values from the original Hindu festival. The success of the Cape Town Holi celebrations has now encouraged other South Africans to set up their own Holi festivals so next year there are celebration plans afoot in Johannesburg and Durban. Interestingly, Durban is the largest ‘Indian city’ outside of India, which promises a spectacular Holi to be hosted there.

In summer 2013 there will also be a large Holi Festival celebration held in London following on from the popularity and success in other countries and major cities. So if you are living and working in the UK, don’t miss out on the occasion to dive into a vibrant element of Indian culture and join a celebration close to you.