Holika, or Holi for short, is the Festival of Color. It marks the end of the nippy winter months and the beginning of spring. This festival comes during the full moon in the Hindu month of Phagan, in February or March. In 2019, it falls on March 21, with the Holika Dahan beginning the evening of March 20.
Bura na mano, Holi hai!
“Don’t mind (feel offense), it’s Holi!”
Holi is one of the major festivals of India and is celebrated on different dates every year. This great Indian festival is observed at the end of the winters in the month of March after the full Moon. A day before Holi a large bonfire is lit that helps in burning out the evil spirits and that whole process is called as Holika Dahan.
Traditions and customs:
- Throwing colored powder on each other
- Throwing colored and scented water
- Public bonfire
- Singing, dancing, and festive parties
- This is a day to forget your worries
- Color can be found everywhere
Holi is celebrated with extreme enthusiasm and joy. Gulal, abeer and pichkaris are synonymous with the festival. Elaborate plans are made to color loved ones and family members. Everybody wants to be the first one to color the other. In the ensuing battle of colors, everybody is drowned not just in colors of gulal but also in love and mirth. People love to drench each other in colored water. Gujiyas and other sweets are offered to everyone who comes across to color.
Temples are beautifully decorated at the time of Holi. Idol of Radha is placed on swings and devotees turn the swings singing devotional Holi songs. Small plays are organized reflecting the spirit of the festival.
Fun, frolic, boisterousness to the extent of buffoonery marks this festival of colors. What more can be expected- when the people get a social sanction to get intoxicated on the bhang, open not just their hearts but also their lungs. And viola, nobody is expected to take offense too, as the norm of the day is, ‘Bura na mano Holi hai‘.
Holi Legends and Mythology
Foremost is the legend of Prahlad and Hiranyakshyap. The legend says there once lived a devil and powerful king, Hiranyakshyap who considered himself a god and wanted everybody to worship him. He demanded that no one pray to Lord Vishnu and that they only pray to him. In fear, people did as he bid. However, his son Pralhad was devoted to Lord Vishnu and would not abide by his father’s rules. To discipline him, Hirankashyap ordered harsh and cruel punishments, yet no harm came to Pralhad.
Finally, Holika (Hirankashyap sister), who was immune to the harms of fire, was ordered to sit on a bed of flames with Pralhad on her lap. Holika was burnt, but Pralhad survived unharmed. As Holika lay dying she begged Pralhad for forgiveness. Pralhad forgave her and deemed that one day a year would be to remember her. To commemorate “Holi”, large bonfires burn and people say a prayer to “Holi” for well-being.
Holi is also associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha. A young Krishna complained to his mother Yashoda about having such a dark complexion compared to his love Radha who was so fair. Yashoda told him to apply color to Radha’s face and see what would happen.
Today, celebrations start early in Nandagaon, where Lord Krishna grew up. Men from Nandagaon raid nearby Barsana (where Radha grew up) with hopes of raising their flag over Shri Radhikaji’s temple. The women of Barsana “beat” the raiders with long wooden sticks. This is a mock battle and the men are well-padded as they try to evade capture. If captured, the men are forced to dress as women, paint their faces, and dance!
Mythology also states that Holi is the celebration of death of Ogress Pootana who tried to kill infant, Krishna by feeding him poisonous milk.
Another legend of Holi which is extremely popular in Southern India is that of Lord Shiva and Kaamadeva. According to the legend, people in south celebrate the sacrifice of Lord of Passion Kaamadeva who risked his life to revoke Lord Shiva from meditation and save the world.
Also, popular is the legend of Ogress Dhundhi who used to trouble children in the kingdom of Raghu and was ultimately chased away by the pranks of the children on the day of Holi. Showing their belief in the legend, children till date play pranks and hurl abuses at the time of Holika Dahan.
Celebration of the various legends associated with Holi reassure the people of the power of the truth as the moral of all these legends is the ultimate victory of good over evil. The legend of Hiranyakashyap and Prahlad also points to the fact that extreme devotion to god pays as god always takes his true devotee in his shelter.
All these legends help the people to follow a good conduct in their lives and believe in the virtue of being truthful. This is extremely important in the modern day society when so many people resort to evil practices for small gains and torture one who is honest. Holi helps the people to believe in the virtue of being truthful and honest and also to fight away the evil.
Besides, holi is celebrated at a time of the year when the fields are in full bloom and people are expecting a good harvest. This gives a people a good reason to rejoice, make merry and submerge themselves in the spirit of Holi.
Holi helps to bring the society together and strengthen the secular fabric of our country. For, the festival is celebrated by non-Hindus also as everybody like to be a part of such a colorful and joyous festival.
Also, the tradition of the Holi is that even the enemies turn friends on Holi and forget any feeling of hardship that may be present. Besides, on this day people do not differentiate between the rich and poor and everybody celebrate the festival together with a spirit of bonhomie and brotherhood.
In the evening people visit friends and relatives and exchange gifts, sweets and greetings. This helps in revitalizing relationships and strengthening emotional bonds between people.
It is interesting to note that the festival of Holi is significant for our lives and body in many other ways than providing joy and fun.
We also need to thank our forefathers who started the trend of celebrating Holi at such a scientifically accurate time. And, also for incorporating so much fun in the festival.
Why Celebrate Holi?
As Holi comes at a time of the year when people have a tendency to feel sleepy and lazy. This is natural for the body to experiences some tardiness due to the change from the cold to the heat in the atmosphere. To counteract this tardiness of the body, people sing loudly or even speak loudly. Their movements are brisk and their music is loud. All of this helps to rejuvenate the system of the human body.
Besides, the colors when sprayed on the body have a great impact on it. Biologists believe the liquid dye or Abeer penetrates the body and enters into the pores. It has the effect of strengthening the ions in the body and adds health and beauty to it.
There is yet another scientific reason for celebrating the Holi, this however pertains to the tradition of Holika Dahan. The mutation period of winter and spring, induces the growth of bacteria in the atmosphere as well as in the body. When Holika is burnt, temperature rises to about 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Following the tradition when people perform Parikrima (circumambulation or going around) around the fire, the heat from the fire kills the bacteria in the body thus, cleansing it.
The way Holi is celebrated in south, the festival also promotes good health. For, the day after the burning of Holika people put ash (Vibhuti) on their forehead and they would mix Chandan (sandalpaste) with the young leaves and flowers of the Mango tree and consume it to promote good health.
Some also believe that play with colors help to promote good health as colors are said to have great impact on our body and our health. Western-Physicians and doctors believe that for a healthy body, colors too have an important place besides the other vital elements. Deficiency of a particular color in our body causes ailment, which can be cured only after supplementing the body with that particular color.
People also clean-up their houses on Holi which helps in clearing up the dust and mess in the house and get rid of mosquitoes and others pests. A clean house generally makes the residents feel good and generate positive energies.
Victoria Day, also known as May Two-Four, May Long, and May Long Weekend, is a Canadian holiday on the Monday preceding May 25. (In 2019, this falls on May 20).
What Do People Do?
In some cities, fireworks displays or parades are held to mark Victoria Day. One of the most notable parades is held in the city of Victoria, British Columbia, which was named after Queen Victoria. Many people gather in parks to enjoy fireworks displays, which are particularly impressive in Hamilton and Toronto.
For many people, the long Victoria Day weekend marks the end of the winter and the unofficial start of the spring or summer season. After this weekend, gardeners can be reasonably sure that there will be no more frost until the autumn so they can sow or plant out delicate crops and plants.
For the same reason, people with recreational homes in colder parts of the country often go to them to open them up for the summer. In addition, many amusement parks and outdoor attractions open for their summer season this weekend. Notably, stores on Prince Edward Island are permitted to open on Sunday only between Victoria Day and Christmas Day.
The History of Victoria Day
Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819. Following the death of 3 uncles and her father, she became Queen of the United Kingdom on June 20, 1837 and reigned until her death on January 22, 1901. During Victoria’s life, the British Empire expanded considerably. However, her powers as Queen of the United Kingdom were reduced as the House of Commons became more important and powerful in British politics.
The monarch’s birthday has been celebrated in Canada since before the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign. After her death, in 1901, May 25 became known as Empire Day. The sovereign’s official birthday was still celebrated, often on the King’s or Queen’s actual birthday. In 1952, Empire Day was moved to the Monday before May 25 and since 1953, the official birthday of Queen Elizabeth II has been celebrated on this date in Canada. In 1958, Empire Day became known as Commonwealth Day, which was moved to the second Monday in March. The Monday before May 25 then became known as Victoria Day, which is a Canadian statutory holiday.
From 365 Goddess
- Themes: Victory; Success; Excellence
- Symbols: Wings (or feathers); Laurel
- Presiding Goddess: Victoria
Victoria, as her name implies is the Roman goddess of attainment. Early in the year she inspires resolve within us to do everything we undertake, with excellence as a goal. In works of art, Victoria is often depicted with wings that allow her to surmount any obstacle or problem.
To Do Today:
Drink a tea made from lemon balm, ginger, and a pinch of cinnamon to generate a successful attitude. Remember, if you think you can, you can!
Put a bay leaf (a form of laurel) in your shoe so that Victoria’s triumphant energy can walk with you all day long. Later in the day, burn a few bay leaves on a fire source to fill your home with success. Alternative aromas that invoke Victoria’s favor are rose and red sandalwood.
To make a victory charm, find a feather (or cut paper in the shape of a feather) and empower it with this incantation:
With the wings of Victoria, I will rise
above all areas where trouble lies
Through diligence and mastery I will see
today begins my victory!
Carry this token anytime you feel your confidence waning, or when you need a boost to get over any seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
Hana-Matsuri refers to the memorial service performed at temples throughout Japan to celebrate the birth of Buddha on April 8th. It is formally called Kanbutsue. On this day, small buildings decorated with flowers are made at temples and a tanjobustu (baby Buddha figurine) is placed inside. This figurine is sprinkled by worshipers using a ladle with ama-cha, which is a beverage made by soaking tea leaves in hot water Some people take this ama-cha home and drink it as holy water.
Shakyamuni Buddha was born approximately 2,500 years ago under the Bodhi tree in the garden of Lumbini (Nepal) to the Sakya King Suddhodhana and his queen, Maya. When the child was born, flowers bloomed, birds sang and sweet rain fell from the heavens above.
The infant Buddha took seven steps in the four directions and with one hand raised to the sky and the other pointing downwards proclaimed,
“Whether above the sky or below the sky, I am most noble and high. I am here to bring peace to all the sentient beings in the world who are suffering.”
The event is commemorated in Buddhist temples across Japan as the birth anniversary of the Shakyamuni Buddha. The day is celebrated with parades featuring images of the baby Buddha, the white elephant seen by his mother in her dream just before his birth and cherry blossoms carried by children dressed in traditional Japanese clothes.
Coincidentally, the sakura (cherry) trees bloom at this very time, and so are given as offerings to adorn the nativity celebrations and ‘amacha’, sweet tea symbolic of the heavenly rain is poured over the baby Buddha by children.
Source: Journey Mart
Earth Day is a name used for two similar global observances. While some people celebrate Earth Day around the time of the Vernal Equinox, others observe the occasion on April 22 each year.
Earth Day aims to inspire awareness of and appreciation for earth’s environment. Typical ways of observing Earth Day include planting trees, picking up roadside trash, conducting various programs for recycling and conservation, using recyclable containers for snacks and lunches. Some people are encouraged to sign petitions to governments, calling for stronger or immediate action to stop global warming and to reverse environmental destruction. Television stations frequently air programs dealing with environmental issues.
Symbols used by people to describe Earth Day include: an image or drawing of planet earth; a tree, a flower or leaves depicting growth; or the recycling symbol. Colors used for Earth Day include natural colors such as green, brown or blue.
This observance arose from an interest in gathering national support for environmental issues. In 1970, San Francisco activist John McConnell and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson separately asked Americans to join in a grassroots demonstration. McConnell chose the spring equinox (March 21, 1970) and Nelson chose April 22. Millions of people participated, and today Earth Day continues to be widely celebrated with events on both dates.
Anthesteria, held on February 11th, celebrates the maturing of the wine and the beginning of spring. It’s an Athenian festival in honor of Dionysus, god of the grape harvest, winemaking, and wine. The celebration lasted for three days in the month of Anthesterion (from the Hellenic calendar in ancient Attica).
The word Anthesteria is associated with “flower” or the “bloom” of the grape. A. W. Verrall (Journal of Hellenic Studies, xx., 1900, p. 115) wrote that it was a feast of “revocation” where the dead were recalled to the land of the living.
In ancient Greece, Anthesteria was the name of a festival during which the participants ritually expelled the Keres, evil female spirits, from their houses.
- The First Day
On the first day, called Pithoigia (opening of the casks), wine from the newly opened casks was offered to Dionysus and everyone in the household, including servants and slaves. The home and children were adorned with spring flowers.
- The Second Day
The second day, named Choës (feast of beakers), was for visiting. People dressed for the day, some even dressed as Dionysus. They spent the day visiting friends and family as well as the local drinking clubs were drinking games were held. Some folks offered wine to deceased relatives by pouring libations on the their tombs.
For the state, however, if was a formal day with secret ceremonies in one of the sanctuaries of Dionysus. The basilissa (or basilinna), wife of the archon basileus, would marry the god of wine in a special ceremony. She was assisted by fourteen Athenian matrons, called geraerae, who the basileus chose and swore to secrecy.
Both Pithoigia and Choës were considered unlucky and defiled days that necessitated atoning with libations. From this the souls of the dead would come up from the underworld and walked the earth. People chewed on buckthorn leaves and smeared tar on their doors to protect themselves from evil.
- The Third Day
The third day, Chytri (feast of pots), was a festival of the dead. Cooked legumes were offered to Hermes, son of Zeus, and he would make the souls of the deceased depart.
From May 19-28 is the time of the Greek festival of Kallyntaria and Plynteria, a time that is also known as a time for “spring cleaning”. Most of us have already started our spring cleaning in various forms, but this particular time of the Sacred Year is dedicated to spiritual cleaning – the cleaning and nurturance of the sacred places.
The Greeks were good at that, and they called this festival Kallyntaria and Plynteria, by which they meant making a special effort to clean the sacred statues of the goddess and god. With all that incense burning and dust gathering, the sacred images get pretty dirty, and you had to take them to be washed in the nearest rivers or lakes, submerging them and letting them reunite with the life-giving waters. Afterward, the women dressed the goddess in her jewels, with much ceremony, and paraded her proudly back to her home in the temple. No singing or fun was allowed during this procedures. These festivals were solomnized because it was work, not play.
The same principle applies to us today. Let’s get those brooms out, and wash the house from top to bottom, really giving it an old fashioned purification. What could be more natural than to transform the old custom of spring cleaning into a religious devotion!
For modern Pagans/Wiccans, now is the time to strip down all the old decorations and adornments of your alter or personal magic space and to do some spring cleaning. If your alter has statues or images of the particular God or Goddess (or both) take them to a local river or stream (if you live near one) and bath the statues in the rushing water. If you are no where near a river, you can use either spring water from bottles, or rushing water from your sink.
If your statues and tools are not made of material safe enough for getting wet, then pass them over pine, frankincense, myrrh, or sandalwood incense. You can also use both water and incense to cleanse your magical wares if you feel it necessary. Clean the dust and and clutter your alter may have accumulated in past celebrations. If you still have Beltane items on your alter, now is the time to remove them and gently store them away for next year.
Celebrate this time of cleaning by partaking of refreshing drinks such as fruit juices like lemonade or limeade. Foods can be on the spicy side, incorporating garlic, onion, and spicy peppers for both purifying and cleansing. Don’t forget to offer some to the Gods :).
Here’s how they celebrate Beltane in Edinburgh!
First organized in the 1980’s, the Beltane Fire Festival has become a popular festival in Edinburgh. Here we have photos of the Beltane Fire Society celebrating Spring and the coming of summer. This lively procession celebrates the ending of winter and is a revival of the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane which is the Gaelic name for the month of May. More about Beltane can be found here: Beltane
The first of May is Beltane or May Day, a time to celebrate the leaping fires of passion. Traditionally celebrated on April 30, (May eve), it marks the height of spring and the flowering of all life. Beltane is a festival of sensuality, sexuality, flowers and delight. It is a traditional time to make love, preferably outdoors.
Beltane is the time when fairies return from their winter rest, carefree and full of mischief and delight. On the night before Beltane, in times past, folks would place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection. If you do not wish the fairies to visit, do the same! This is also a perfect time for night or predawn rituals to draw down power to promote fertility in body and mind.
At Beltane, the Pleiades star cluster rises just before sunrise on the morning horizon. The Pleiades is known as the seven sisters, and resembles a tiny dipper-shaped pattern of six moderately bright stars in the constellation of Taurus, near the shoulder. Watch for it low in the east-northeast sky, just a few minutes before sunrise.
There are many lovely old customs associated with this time. Here are some simple ideas for celebrating this wild red time of year:
- Make a garland or wreath of freshly picked flowers and wear it in your hair.
- Dress in bright colors, especially hot pink or crimson, the traditional colors of Beltane, or wear green all day (and nothing all night!)
- Hang fruits and baked goodies from trees and bushes for later feasting.
- Build a Beltane fire: leap over it to cleanse yourself, or state your desires and let the fire carry them upward.
- Leap over your garden rows (or house plants), sharing joyous energy.
- Make a ‘May gad’: peel a willow-wand and twine cowslips or other flowers around it.
- Throw a May Day party and feast on May wine and food till the dawn. Turn a broomstick into a maypole and see how many people you can get to dance round it.
- Make love in the woods, in your garden, outside – at night.
- Watch the sunrise. Pack a picnic breakfast, a blanket, and some sweaters; and head out before dawn. Unpack your picnic on a hill with an unobstructed view and enjoy the early morning rays as the sun peaks over the horizon.
- Make a flower feast! Freeze edible flowers in your ice cubes. Add edible flowers to your salad. Candy flowers to decorate your dessert.
- Make a May basket. Fill it with flowers, food, ribbons, and fun. Leave it on a doorstep of a lover or friend, or someone who cannot get outside, such as an invalid or elderly person.
- Make a daisy chain and cast it into one of the lakes to please the water spirits.
- Rise at dawn on May Day and wash in the morning dew: The woman who washes her face in it will be beautiful, the man who washes his hands will be skilled at knots and nets (always a useful skill for students).
- Twist a Rowan sprig into a ring and look through it- tonight is one of the three in the year when the uninitiated can see the faeries.
- Create a May Day altar with a mirror, a small maypole, a phallic shaped candle, a daisy chain and springtime flowers.
- Light a fire or candle on the top of a hill and make a wish as you jump over it (for authenticity, you can try this sky clad, it would also be amusing for any passing late-night dog walkers!)
- Perfume your house with delicate scent of woodruff, a tiny, star-like flower that blooms around this time in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Embrace the ones you love. Hugs and kisses all around.
Holidays are days made holy by the attention we pay them. Simple practices such as the ones listed above remind us that we too dance to the natural rhythms of the earth.
Also called The Parilia, this festival is dedicated to the Another festival to Pales, goddess of herds. In ancient Roman religion, Pales was a deity of shepherds, flocks and livestock. Regarded as male by some sources and female by others, Pales can be either singular or plural in Latin, and refers at least once to a pair of deities.
During these festivals, ritualistic cleansing of sheep/cattle pens and animals would take place. There are two dates for this festival, one is April 21, and the other on July 7. The festival in April was for smaller livestock, while the one in July was for larger animals.
The festival, basically a purification rite for herdsmen, beasts, and stalls, was at first celebrated by the early kings of Rome, later by the pontifex maximus, or chief priest.
The Vestal Virgins opened the festival by distributing straw and the ashes and blood of sacrificial animals. Ritual cleaning, anointment, and adornment of herds and stalls followed, together with offerings of simple foods.
Shepherds swept out the pens and smudged the animals and pens with burning sulfur. In the evening, the animals were sprinkled with water, and their pens were decorated with garlands. Fires were started, and in were thrown olives, horse blood, beanstalks without pods, and the ashes from the Fordicalia fires. Men and beasts jumped over the fire three times to purify themselves further, and to bring them protection from anything that might harm them (wolves, sickness, starvation, etc.). After the animals were put back into their pens the shepherds would offer non-blood sacrifices of grain, cake millet, and warm milk to Pales.
Another description of this Festival from Nova Roma is as follows:
The Parilia is both an ancient agricultural festival sacred to Pales and the birthday of Eternal Roma Herself. The sheep-fold is decorated with greenery and a wreath placed on its entrance. At first light the fold is scrubbed and swept, and the sheep themselves are cleansed with sulfur smoke. A fire is made of olive and pine wood, into which laurel branches are thrown; their crackling is a good omen. Offerings are made of cakes of millet, other food, and pails of milk.
A prayer is then said four times to Pales (while facing east), seeking protection and prosperity for the shepherd and his flocks, forgiveness for unintentional transgressions against Pales, and the warding off of wolves and disease. The shepherd then washes his hands with dew. Milk and wine is heated and drunk, and then he leaps through a bonfire (and possibly his flocks as well).
Day of Pales Ritual
From the Pagan Book of Hours, we have a modern day ritual for the Day of Pales.
- Color: Sand-colored
- Element: Earth
- Altar: Upon a sand-colored cloth set a man’s right shoe and a woman’s left shoe, side by side, with a shepherd’s crook between them, and small figures of goats and sheep.
- Offerings: Work in the barn with livestock. Do some chore or work-task that you were taught was inappropriate for your gender.
- Daily Meal: Goat. Lamb or mutton. Coarse bread. Soup or stew. Greens.
Invocation to Pales
Hail, Keeper of Flocks and Herds,
Ass-headed god/dess, you who are
Both male and female,
Both god and peasant,
Patron of those who must dirty their hands,
Beloved of the working man and woman,
You who do not play favorites,
Trickster who loves a good joke,
Lord of the dry land between the rivers
Where your flocks graze on scrub
And the people’s blood flows like water
In their everlasting feud,
Come to us and show us life
Through your crooked ass eyes!
Hail, Keeper of Flocks and Herds,
Lady/Lord of the crook and sandals,
You show us that roles
Are meant to be transgressed,
That work can be radical,
That being bound to the labor of the Earth
Does not have to make one heavy.
We need your humor, divine ass!
We need your braying laughter to echo
Over the desert and through our hearts,
And to watch you tip the balance of power
Like a child tips an apple cart.
Hail, Keeper of Flocks and Herds!
(After the invocation, go to the barn, or to a local farm. Hoofed livestock should be given treats on this day, in honor of Pales.)
The Easter Fire is a custom of pagan origin spread all over Europe. It is a symbol of victory, the victory of beautiful and sunny spring over the cold days of winter.
On Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday, in rare occasions also on Easter Monday, large fires are lit at dusk in numerous sections of Northwestern Europe. These regions include Denmark, parts of Sweden as well as in Finland, Northern Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
The fire is lit usually on the top of the mountains – Easter mountain, Osterberg – and it is obtained from wood by friction. In Germany, the Easter fire is created by gathering all the Christmas trees and burning them into a huge fire, a sign for everyone to leave behind winter and prepare for spring.
Though not documented before the 16th century, the custom presumably is based on Saxon, pre-Christian traditions, that are still performed each year. There are several explanations of the meaning of these fires. The Saxons believed that around the time of Easter, Spring becomes victorious over Winter. The fires were to help chase the darkness and winter away. It was also a symbol of fertility, which works in a literal sense in that the ashes were scattered over the meadows and thereby fertilized the soil.
The pre-Christian meaning of Easter fires is hardly experienced anymore. Nowadays they are meant to bring the community together, which guarantees a pleasant night combined with the consumption of beer, mulled wine or liquor, and snacks.