perjantai 6. maaliskuuta 2015

It's a Holi Day!

The day before we celebrated Holi, the festival of colors.
Water and colors, a field day for kiddos
There are several stories to the origins of Holi, from Lord Krishna coloring his fair wife's skin with colors to seem less dark skinned himself; the death of Holika; celebration of love between Krishna and Draupadi. (Disclaimer: I am not very familiar with Hinduism, my "facts" here are a result of google so I can claim no authority on the authenticity of my claims. But, as with everything, it seems there is never one truth in Nepal, so this fits with the theme :) )
Rainbow hair on Nina
Dance floor of Restaurant 1905 in Kathmandu

Holi welcomes the spring and the summer and it is celebrated in most South Asian countries. It is official holiday in Nepal. Holi in Nepal starts one week before the main day of Holi. There is a tradition of erecting a long bamboo stick (lingo) covered with pieces of different color cloths (Chir) in Bashantapur Durbar square, Kathmandu. In the eve of Holi the lingo is taken down and the Chir is burnt. The event is called Chir Haran or Holika Dahan. Holi then starts. Now, in Nepal there are only two days celebrations. It is an old celebration, dating at least to the 16th century, but most likely much, much older.
License to sprinkle (& touch)
Holi is permission to act in a way you normally wouldn't be allowed do, starting from throwing water and colors on people, drinking bhaang (or just plain old alcohol; we stuck with Royal Stag, an Indian whisky) and I guess, touching the opposite sex, otherwise a big no-no.  In Nepal, there have been attempts to curb the excessive unruliness (e.g. play with colors & water only with those who are willing to play) and based on what I read from the newspapers it has been more or less successful. At least the party I went to was relatively mild and the streets were orderly.

Moments before the madness begun at 1905
Anyway, I went to an event organized at a Restaurant called 1905. It has a big, beautiful yard that holds a Farmer's Market on Saturdays - a haven for a European craving for instance Camembert or some flavors from home. Anyway, we enter the area, the music is pounding to the extent I think I might go deaf in just a few minutes. The water sprinkler makes rainbows in the air and the sun is shining. It's still very quiet, we are among the first - of course, Finnish people always are. There's a counter where you can buy drinks so we start the day with a 12 o'clock drink. Why not, it's Holi after all! We buy a couple of bags of bright red and yellow powders and I invest in a small pouch of silver that I am sure cannot be healthy. But it's very pretty and I am soon a favorite go-to by all the children because is the anything cooler than looking like a silver alien when you are a 10 year-old? Traditionally you use natural colors for the powders (neem, turmeric, dhak etc) but commercial colors have become more and more popular. I'm pretty sure ours weren't natural but very much artificial. The problem with artificial colors is that they can cause allergies and even worse. But, no harm came our way and I am usually pretty sensitive to chemicals. All good.

Sprinkle away
You're supposed to wear white but I forgot to buy a t-shirt for the occasion. In my wardrobe there really aren't any white clothes. Even with my orange stripy shirt, a few hours later we are covered in a smashed rainbow of perfumed powders: blue, green, silver, pink, red, yellow, you name it. I am not sure if my pink Converse sneakers will ever be presentable and the red scrubbed on my forehead seems to resist all attempts to be cleaned off despite several washing attempts including, among others, face wash, facial scrub, Nivea Creme (that always removes everything), even oil. Oh well. What's a little discoloration when you're having a blast.

Danish get colored
Oh and I'd love to bring this festival to Finland as well. Not sure though how throwing water with temperatures close to zero even in the south of Finland would fit...Anyway, this has been my favorite festival so far. If you ever get a chance join for one, you really should. It's like being a kid again.

Two very colored Nordics at the end of the day

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