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Reinventing support for cultural and religious practices in the workplace: Holi

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What is Holi?

Holi is a Hindu festival that originated in India but is now celebrated worldwide as a way to welcome the arrival of spring. The holiday is a time for unity, embracing equality and forgiveness, renewing relationships and celebrating positive change, love and compassion. It is known for its celebratory feasting, vibrant colourful traditions, and Hindu folklore.

Activities include prayer and visiting friends and family to share food and drink. But Holi can also be a rowdy occasion, with family and friends daubing each other in coloured powders and drenching unsuspecting passers-by with coloured water.

It’s a time for fun and even a little flirtation. Nobody wears their best clothes, because whatever you wear will likely get wet and covered in colourful powder.

When is Holi?

Holi happens in late February or early March each year, and lasts for one night and the following day. The exact date changes each year according to the Hindu lunar calendar. It begins the night of the full moon of the Hindu month of Phalguna. In 2023, this will be 8 March. In some regions, celebrations start by lighting a bonfire the night before.

Holi folk traditions

There are many folk tales about Holi. One familiar story is that the festival’s name derives from ‘Holika’, the evil sister of demon king Hiranya Kashap. The king thought he was immortal, and his sister believed her magical powers would stop her from being burned in a fire.

The king’s son Prahlad rebelled against his father’s conceit, and the cruel king and his sister plotted Prahlad’s death in a bonfire. Holika tricked her nephew into a fire, but her supernatural powers failed, and she died in the flames while Prahlad survived.

The night before Holi, people light community bonfires to commemorate this story and celebrate good prevailing over evil.

Another story features Lord Krishna, who enjoyed friendly pranks. One day, he threw colourful powders on his friend Radha in a playful expression of love – and soon everyone joined in the colourful fun. This led to the ritual, followed across India, of throwing coloured powders and water.

As Holi also ushers in the start of spring, people throw wheat sheaves, coconut and chickpeas into bonfires as symbols of gratitude for the spring harvest. While the bonfires have a religious element, the second day is more social, with a raucous and vibrant welcoming of new beginnings and well-being.

In more modern times, Holi has also inspired colour runs, in which runners are showered with colours.

What happens during Holi?

The second day of Holi is the major celebration. Early in the day, people arrange coloured powders and snacks on platters, while children load up their water pistols ready for action.

The morning starts with an outdoor exchange of sweetmeats and colourful powders – anything from a light touch of colour on foreheads to thorough soaking with a bucket of coloured water.

After lunch with friends and family, revellers bathe and change into clean clothes, signifying the end of the boisterous Holi activities.

What do people eat at Holi?

In the morning, people enjoy snacks such as crisp-fried savoury biscuits and soft lentil dumplings. Sweetmeats are considered an auspicious Holi offering.

There’s no set meal for Holi lunch and many people prefer regional vegetarian dishes. But typical dishes include chickpea curry and potato masala; and snacks include onion bhajis, samosas, pancakes spiced with fennel, and sweetly scented kulfi.

Reinventing support

Delta Capita want all our employees to feel included, regardless of their background or beliefs. We support and encourage staff to spend time on cultural practices, and on promoting their physical and mental well-being too.

Employees that feel supported in these activities generally feel healthier, happier, and have more sense of belonging and engagement at work.

If you are looking for a new workplace that values diversity and employee well-being, browse our latest vacancies here.

Also explore how Delta Capita is reinventing the workplace through employee-centric projects at our Reinventing Hub.