Sometimes times it feels as though you’d never need to leave the busy streets of London to experience the world. With a touch of Google search wizardry in short order you can discover Chinese Tea Ceremonies, French Gothic revival architecture of the Houses of Parliament, Malaysian Street Feasts, Japanese Gardens and antipodean bruncheries are (gloriously) popping up in almost every neighbourhood – to name but a few examples.
The sheer variety of population makes for a beautiful patchwork of festivities but over the years there has been one that has managed to elude me. Holi.
|Our shoes were black, and overalls pristine white…|
Celebrating the onset of Spring (the ancient festival clearly invented before the modern/pagan seasonal worship flower overload on instagram), Holi was originally a festival of fertility and harvest. Now
it also marks some Hindu legends, which provide some of the ingredients
for the celebrations (it’s an ancient festival referred to as far back as the 7th century Sanskrit drama, Ratnaval.)
The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair ruptured relationships.
Of course this meant that one school night a few of us rolled up to Liverpool Street Station, before making our way through (labyrinthine) cobbled lanes nearby to excitedly assemble outside the Cinnamon Club for a guerilla session of gods-sanctioned colour savagery. I meant friendly colour fire…
Holi celebrations start with a Holika bonfire on the night before Holi where people gather, sing and dance. The next morning is a free-for-all carnival of colours, where participants play, chase and colour each other with dry powder and coloured water, with some carrying water guns and coloured water-filled balloons for their water fight. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders.
We donned light overalls, removed all breakables and were handed pouches of brightly hued pigment before joining the other groups of giggling merrymakers. The tent is a music filled explosion of pigment – people run about patting your face, dropping powder in your hair and throwing random handfuls of colour wherever they can reach. Controlled chaos basically.
The powder gets everywhere (we all wandered about laughing so much that my teeth went blue) and after about 20mins we all trooped out for several rounds of giggling photos, the opportunity to wipe our smeared faces and a rather more civilized cocktail. For celebrations’ sake you understand?
|How do you look afterwards? Well, that’s my awkward smiling face (Jess has loads of much cooler shots)|
There were a few amused eyebrows raised on the way home, and then at home when I discovered my purple toes and elbows. Just an average night y’know.
It just goes to show that sensible British business squares can have secrets you’ll never guess…
The only question on our minds afterwards was how to explain the new hairdos if it didn’t wash out (which thankfully it did!) and how blurry the photos our powder covered camera lenses would turn out…
Best. Festival. Ever.