Celebrate the Holi Festival with Kids!
India’s Holi festival celebrates the end of winter and the arrival of spring, with all of it’s spring colors! Famous for the throwing of colored powders, celebrating the Holi festival with kids can be a fun, cultural experience for the whole family!
Holi has roots in various events in Hindu mythology. One of the more popular legends celebrates the victory of good over evil, brought about by the burning and destruction of the demoness named Holika. I couldn’t possibly do justice to all of the Hindu mythology, but this website does a great job of explaining all of the different legends!
When: Holi is celebrated the day after the full moon in March each year. Holika Dahan is celebrated on the evening before Holi by lighting large bonfires to burn evil spirits. Here are the dates for Holi in the upcoming years:
Year Holi Holika Dahan 2017 March 13 March 12 2018 March 2 March 1 2019 March 21 March 20 2020 March 10 March 9
Where to Celebrate
Though Holi is celebrated all across India, you’re likely to find more festive celebrations in North India. Celebrations in southern India are a bit more religious and focus on temple rituals. Each city celebrates a little differently, so the best place to go really depends on the type of experience you’d like to have. Here’s a little bit of info on the most popular areas, and which places may be best to avoid if you’re celebrating the Holi festival with kids.
The Holi celebration kicks off in Barsana about a week before the main day of Holi with Laddoo Holi festivities. Loddoos (sweets) are thrown and traditional Hindu songs are sung. People in Barsana also celebrate Lathmar Holi, where women chase men with sticks!
About 4 hours from Delhi, the biggest festival on Holi day takes place at the historical Dwarkadheesh Temple (get there early!). In the afternoon, watch the colorful Holi procession that goes from Vishram Ghat to Holi Gate.
Close to Mathura, big Holi celebrations will start about a week prior to the main Holi day. Banke Bihari Temple is the hub of Holi festivities in Vridavan. A few days prior to Holi, Phoolon wali holi (Flower’s Holi) is celebrated -nstead of throwing colors, flowers are thrown. On Holi day, temple priests at Banke Bihari Temple throw colors and holy water, and all of the crowd chants. This site can get pretty rowdy, so it probably isn’t great for younger kids.
Anandpur Sahib in Punjab
In Punjab, Holi is celebrated is Sikh fashion. Instead of throwing colors, you’ll get to see physical competitions such as martial arts, turban tying, acrobatic exercises, and mock sword fights!
On Holika Dahan, you can join in the celebration of the royal family. Watch a grand palace procession with decorated horses and the royal band as they go from the royal residence to the City Palace.
Delhi is one of the rowdiest places to celebrate Holi, with celebrations all around the city and tons of people throwing powdered colors and water balloons. With kiddos, it may be best to avoid Paharganj, Delhi’s famous backpacker area, as celebrations can quickly get out of control. Delhi also hosts the Holi Moo Festival (formerly the Holi Cow Festival) which is an international music festival with color throwing.
If you google Holi in Jaipur, you’re sure to come across images of elephants fully decked out in colors and costumes. Jaipur is famous for elephant parades, elephants beauty contests, and games of tug-of-war between elephants. In recent years, animal rights activists protested this event because they were concerned that the colored powder used to decorate the elephants was toxic. Since 2012, all elephant activities in Jaipur have been cancelled. If your heart is set on seeing elephants during Holi, look into Eleholi, a private festival with elephants hosted by a nearby elephant sanctuary.
Celebrate Like a Local
On the evening before Holi, bonfires are lit with the rising of the moon to celebrate the burning of demoness Holika and to ward off evil spirits. Join in the singing and dancing around the fire. The mantras can be found in the Rig Veda, an ancient Indian collection of Sanskrit hymns.
Play with Colors
You’ll definitely need some colors to play with if you’re going to celebrate Holi like a local! You can make your own all-natural colors or purchase colors from a local vendor. Many colors sold by vendors contain chemicals. Colors made from gulal (a red-orange color) or abeer (a shimmery silver color) are all-natural. You could also purchase all-natural colors online prior to your trip.
Once you’ve got your colors, have fun by smearing them all over you loved ones! Another fun option is to use a pichkari (water gun) to spray colored water. Just mix a little of your colored powder with some water and go crazy! What kid wouldn’t want to do this?!
Enjoy Traditional Holi Delicacies
If you’re celebrating Holi like a local, you’ll want to indulge in a few Indian delicacies! These will vary from region to region, but here are a few popular things to look out for:
- Thandai: Thandai is a sweet, creamy milk flavored with nuts and spices. Just make sure the drinks for your kids don’t contain bhaang, a paste made from cannabis!
- Gujiya: Gujiyas are sweet dumplings filled with a fruit mixture and dipped in a sugary syrup.
- Purin Poli: Purin poli is a sweet, buttery flatbread served with ghee (clarified butter) and milk.
- Dahi Vada: Dahi vada is a savory snack made by soaking fritters in an Indian yogurt. The vadas are then deep fried and spices are added to the top!
Tips for Celebrating the Holi Festival with Kids
- If you want to celebrate the Holi festival with kids, consider staying at a hotel that hosts private, family-friendly color throwing parties.
- Purchase Holi kurtas (long, white trousers that many locals wear) to wear when playing with colors. If you choose to wear your own clothing, make sure it’s clothing that you don’t mind getting ruined.
- Rub coconut oil on your skin and hair so that the colors don’t absorb. It will make it much easier to wash off! Wearing a head scarf can also help protect your hair.
- Expect for colors to be thrown at you, including at your face and in your eyes. Try not to get annoyed, as this is how Holi is celebrated. You may want to wear safety glasses, especially if you wear contact lenses.
- If you go out into the streets, carry all of your personal belongings in sealed plastic bags to protect them from water and colors.
- Book your hotels early as March is the peak of tourist season in India and many people travel for the Holi festival.
- If you’re wanting to take part in the festival, you’ll need to get up early to celebrate in the morning. The main Holi festival typically wraps up around 1:00 PM.
- Most tour companies will not offer tours to popular attractions on Holi day. Tour guides throughout India often have the day off and many attractions are closed.
Holi Safety Information
Keep in mind that Holi is not for everybody. The streets can get quite crowded and crazy, and might be overwhelming for younger children. Many hotels offer the opportunity to celebrate Holi with kids by playing with colors in a safer, more comfortable manner. Here are a few other things to keep in mind:
- Bhang is a paste made from cannabis plants that is commonly consumed as a drink. It will make you loopy, so not for the kiddos.
- Many people celebrate Holi by drinking bhang and can get a little unruly as the day continues. If this is a concern, you may want to celebrate earlier in the day and then head back to your hotel by the afternoon.
- Those with severe dust allergies or asthma may struggle with the colored powder.
Have you celebrated the Holi festival with kids? I’d love to hear any additional suggestions you have to help improve this article! Feel free to leave a comment below!Everything you need to know to celebrate Holi in India with your family!Click To Tweet