When is Holi 2023? Date of Festival of Love, what is meaning of Hindu celebration, traditions and UK events

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The popular festival of colours falls in March in 2023

Holi, also known as the Festival of Love, the Festival of Colours and the Festival of Spring is a popular ancient Hindu festival.

It’s a celebration of the eternal and divine love of Radha Krishna, the combined forms of feminine and masculine realities of God, and the triumph of good over evil.

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But when is Holi 2023, what does it symbolise and how is it celebrated?

Here’s what you need to know.

When is Holi 2023?

In 2023, Holi falls on Wednesday 8 March. It is an important spring festival for Hindus and is a national holiday in India and Nepal. Holi is also a regional holiday in many different countries.

Holi is celebrated at the end of winter, in the Hindu month of Phalguna on the last full moon day (Purnima) in the Hindu lunisolar calendar.

In the Gregorian calendar, this falls from late February to March.

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Historically, Holi has also marked a celebration of agriculture, by commemorating good spring harvests and the fertile land.

What does Holi symbolise? 

The popular festival of colours falls in March for 2023 The popular festival of colours falls in March for 2023
The popular festival of colours falls in March for 2023 | Getty Images

Holi is a joyous festival, celebrating the arrival of spring, the end of winter and blossoming love. It’s a day to renew friendships, to meet others and forget and forgive past tribulations. However, the festival of colours is also a day to get rid of past errors, and end conflicts with others.

Celebrations commence the night before Holi, with a Holika Dahan, an event where people perform religious rituals in front of a bonfire and pray that, much like the way Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, was killed in a bonfire, so too will their internal evil be destroyed.

The legend says Holika lured Prahlad, her nephew, into a fire at the King’s request because the nephew worshipped Vishnu instead of him. In the fire, Prahlad was protected, but Holika was burned.

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This story amplifies the belief that good always triumphs over evil and it is believed the name Holi derives from Holika.

Other legends centre around myths and legends of love. In Shaivism and Shaktism, traditions of Hinduism, Holi is linked to Shiva in deep meditation, and his wife Parvati wanting to bring Shiva back into the world.

Throwing coloured power originates from another legend, where Krishna, who has blue skin, is in love with Radha but is unhappy with the difference in skin colour. Krishna’s mother suggests he colours Radha, which leads to the celebration of colours.

Each colour also holds meaning: red means love and fertility, yellow is the natural colour of turmeric, a spice native to India, blue represents Krishna and green is for new beginnings.

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How is Holi celebrated? 

Holi has gained traction in being an international event, perhaps due to the unique and colourful nature of the festival.

The day of Holi is also known as Rangwali Holi (Dhuleti) a festival bombarded with colours that people smear each other with, as a way of showing true equality - everyone is fair game.

Celebrations also see people drench each other with water guns and water balloons. In some communities, festivities are taken to the street, with neighbours, friends and family all partaking in these joyous activities.

Loud parades take through the streets, with people carrying drums and other musical instruments, to sing and dance in large groups.

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Holi is celebrated throughout India and South Asia. In Gujarat, Holi is a two-day festival, where the bonfire takes place on the first day. Here people offer raw coconut and corn into the fire. The second day is the renowned colour throwing day.

In Karnataka, children often collect money and wood in the weeks leading to Holi.

International Holi celebrations

In Nepal, Holi is celebrated in the month of Falgun to celebrate the legend of Krishna. The belief behind the colours takes away sorrow and makes life more colourful.

Pakistan holds Holi events in major cities such as Karachi, Multan, Hyderabad and more. But due to colonisation and the Indian diaspora, Holi has spread its roots across the world, covering countries such Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji and Guyana, as well as England and the US.

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Several events across London, Birmingham, Leicester and Edinburgh are taking place starting from 4 March, and lasting until 12 March so be sure to check out your local area to see how the Festival of Colours is being celebrated near you.

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