Holi will be celebrated on March 25, 2024 (Credit: Lsprasath/ CC-BY-SA-4.0 / Wikimedia Commons)

India is home to numerous fun festivals. But few are as anticipated as Holi, the Festival of Colors. The Hindu holiday celebrates the start of spring and the victory of good over evil. The date of the event is determined by the lunar calendar and differs every year. In 2024, Holi will be observed on March 25.

Unlike the Holi-inspired "color runs," participants do not have to compete in a 2.5-mile (4 km) race prior to the celebrations. Instead, revelers simply take to the streets early in the morning to douse friends and strangers with colored powder and water. The fun usually lasts until noon. The crowds then head home to rinse off before settling down for a delicious feast and a much-needed nap.

Holika invited Prahlad to join him in a bonfire (Credit: swaminaryan.info/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

There are many folktales associated with Holi. One of the most popular one attributes the holiday to Hiranyakashipu, the king of demons. According to the story the ruler was unhappy about his son Prahlad's devotion to Lord Vishnu, the protector of moral conduct. After many failed attempts to punish him, the king turned to his sister, Holika, for help.

The demon goddess had a magical shawl that protected her from flames. She invited Prahlad to sit with her in a huge bonfire. But when the young boy stepped in, the shawl flew from Holika's shoulders and covered him. Holika perished in the blaze, while Prahlad emerged unscathed. Lord Vishnu appeared shortly after and killed the king. The locals celebrated the victory of good over evil with colorful powder, and a fun tradition began. To this day, many Indians light a bonfire on the night before Holi to cleanse the air of evil spirits.

Nandgaon men stage a mock battle with Barsana women (Credit: Narender9/ CC BY-SA-3.0/ Wikimedia Commons)

In the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Holi commemorates the love between the Hindu deity Lord Krishna and Radha. In Nandgaon, Krishna's birthplace, the festival is celebrated for almost a month. The highlight is Lathmar, or "stick," Holi. It takes place just a few days before the main event. Legend has it that Lord Krishna and his friends went to the neighboring village of Barsana to tease Radha and her friends. But the women chased them away with sticks.

The men from Nandgaon reenact the event by staging a mock battle with Barsana women on Lathmar Holi. The women "attack" the men with bamboo sticks. The men protect themselves with wooden shields and try to fight back with the only weapon available — colored powder! Those unfortunate enough to get caught by the feisty females have to dress in women's clothing and dance for their captors.

Regardless of the belief, Holi is a festival of love and joy. On this day, people of all ages and cultures come together to have a good time.

Happy Holi!

Resources: holifestival.org, Wikipedia.org