March 17, 2014 may just be the biggest party day in recorded history. It is St. Patrick’s Day in the Christian world, and Holi in the Hindu world. They are two religious holidays that, though celebrating different ideologies, bring out the raucous side of revelers eager to throw caution to the wind for one day of the year. India and the U.S. may be physically miles apart, but not so much in spirit.
St. Patrick’s Day is a holy feast day in the Catholic Church, celebrating the man who brought Christianity to Ireland. It is a serious religious celebration that was brought to the United States with Irish immigrants, but has evolved into a celebration of Irish pride. Today, St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S. is all about wearing green clothes and party hats, parades and dancing, and dying everything around us green. People spray their hair green, paint their faces green, and cities dye their rivers green. But, the best part of all, is the mass consumption of green beer. Or any other kind folks can get their hands on.
Holi is the Hindu festival of colors. It marks the end of winter, and like most Hindu festivals, it is associated with religious legends, and rituals. Like St. Patrick’s Day, secular fun abounds, and bright colors dye the world . Revelers throw powdered colors all over each strangers everywhere. For one day, folks loosen up around each other, and just have fun.
I am descended from those poor Irish immigrants who brought the fun of St. Paddy’s Day to this country. I grew up getting pinched at school if I forgot to wear green to school, and searched for leprechauns who might have a pot of gold. I have been to my fair share of parties flowing with green beverages, and I have even had green hair. My husband, on the other hand, tells stories of his Holi days growing up, and the sheer ecstasy of attacking everyone with colors, and being stained up rainbow boys for a while.
Indian and western cultures differ on so many levels, but deep down, people are all the same. We like to let it all go, if only for one day. And for some reason, we share a fetish for dying ourselves and our surroundings. Hey, whatever works! In the words of Pink (whom I read has a little luck of the Irish in her),
Let’s Get this Party Started!