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On the first day of Spring, a celebration of Holi (the Indian festival of colors) took place in New York City in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. The event, held annually in New York City, is a chance for the Indian people to share their cultural traditions and customs. Holi traditionally takes place when the monsoons end, as a joyous celebration of a good harvest and the coming of light.

color-holi-festival The New York celebration reflected many of the same customs that surround the occasion back in India. Most well known, of course, is the use of colored powders called Gulal, which are thrown, sprinkled, or smeared on people’s faces or clothing.

Applying the color is supposed to take all the sorrow away and make life more plentiful. Gulal is prepared in a rainbow of vibrant colors such as majenta, purple, blue, green, and yellow that make the whole occasion fun and joyous. The airborne colors spread positive energy into the atmosphere and everybody seems to love being covered in the vibrant hues.

In Dag Hamarskjold Plaza they also had a stage where various performances took place throughout the afternoon. The engaging host bridged the various acts with snippets of traditional folk songs, jokes, and other pleasantries. One of the things he asked the crowd to participate in was spontaneous laughter, which he said was an ancient health enhancing technique.

Later, a group of male and female Bhangra dancers came onto the stage wearing colorful headdresses and intricately embroidered fabrics. Bangra originated in Northern India where it was part of the harvest celebrations. This is why the dancers maintain very happy expressions on their faces while performing. Another group was composed of female dancers wearing earrings, bracelets and bells on their feet, with beautiful white flowers laced into their hair.

There was a lot of delicious Indian food being served, including sandwiches, vegetable samosas and tasty juices like mango, which is very popular in India. People were¬†circulating around the plaza with trays of Indian sweets,which were offered freely as samples to the crowd. I happily tried a few of them, including a “Ledoo”, which is basically a brightly colored and sweetened rice ball.

The NYC celebration of Holi was a fun and lively way to sample some fascinating Indian culture right here in Manhattan. The music, the dancing, the joyous people, and the delicious food transported me to India for the afternoon.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 1st, 2012 at 8:40 am.
Categories: Travel.

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