Last weekend I went to the Holi Festival of Colors in Spanish Fork, Utah.
You can read more about the significance of Holi in Hindu culture and religious traditions here, but I was curious about what draws 80,000 people (most of them in no way connected to the Hare Krishnas who put on the festival) to a small Utah town.
Perhaps most obvious is the breathtaking beauty of a geyser of colors against snow-capped mountains.
Yet the world is full of beautiful places. Beyond just beauty, Holi gives permission. Everyone who goes there goes to throw colors. Everyone who goes there goes to get colors thrown on them. Everyone who goes there goes to get dirty.
There are no questions about how to fit in: as soon as you enter, people cover you in color. There are no question about how to interact with strangers: cover them in color. There are no questions about what to wear: whatever you wear will be covered in color. There are no questions about your hairstyle, your make-up, your wrinkles, your complexion: they will all be covered in color. Strangers will make you colorful; strangers will make you dirty; and you will be beautiful because of it.
The unity that Christians are promised having been clothed in Christ, people actually experience clothed in a cloud of color. The freedom that Christians are promised in the waters of baptism, people actually experience in a shower of color. The colors act as a Carnival mask, giving people the freedom to frolic, to flirt, to dance wildly to bands in ways they would never feel comfortable doing otherwise. And every time someone wants to make their presence known, to share their soul with the world, all they have to do is throw a handful of color into the air.
(yes, this couple was actually getting married)
And every two hours there is a coordinated color throw in which everyone throws a bag of color up in the air at the same time. If you stand in the center of the throw, you step into another world. For a brief second your color streaks into the air beside the colors of your neighbors, and you see a hundred colors behind. But then, as the colored powder lingers in the air, the colors merge. What was once pink, and green, and yellow, becomes brown, and then black, as all the individual colors become one and block out the sun. For a handful of untaken breaths you stand alone in darkness, knowing you are surrounded by a throng of thousands, unable to see them, but feeling their powder like mist on your skin. In the darkness you are embraced by the divine. Then the wind comes and blows the cloud away. Friends hug, couples kiss, and people push towards fresh air, covered in a layer of thousand-color ash.
Also, there are llamas.
Pictures of our trip provided by Landon Goldberg, for more of his photos, click here.