Holi Festival Guide: How to Celebrate around the World

Last updated on May 7th, 2024 at 03:29 pm

Known as the Festival of Colors across the globe, Holi is perhaps one of the most recognized Indian festivals today. And it’s one of the most fun.

Since Holi is so popular, it’s easy to find ways to celebrate even if you’re far from home.

From mass-events to local celebrations and home parties, celebrating Holi abroad is easier than you think. From the USA to Australia, you’re likely to find Holi colors and Indian supermarkets with your favorite festival dishes and sweets.

Keep reading to find out how you can celebrate the spring festival of Holi, no matter where you live.

holi festival

Holi Basics

The origins of Holi have a few variations. Most relate it to the defeat of the evil King Hiranyakashipu and his sister Holika and the victory of the pious Prahlada. But it has also been linked to the love between Radha and Krishna.

And everyone celebrates Holi a bit differently. But there are some must-have items for your Holi celebration. Outside of colored powder, you may want to have:

  • Thandai (such as this recipe)
  • Gujiya (recipe here)
  • Puri chhole
  • Veg pulao or biryani
  • Paneer
  • And all the sweets you can handle!

Depending on where you live, you might even be able to buy some of these favorites as ready-made dishes, which can make preparations easier.

You may also decide to add in some extra activities, especially if you have kids. Henna, painting, rangoli, and other Holi-themed crafts are a great way to bring in the festive spirit.

How Holi Is Celebrated Around the World

No matter where you live, it’s likely that you’ll be able to get everything you need to celebrate Holi. With the exception of bhang, it’s possible to get ingredients for your favorite dishes and the obvious star of the show — colored powder.

Outside of India, Holi is celebrated in Suriname, Fiji, Guana, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Trinidad and Tobago, Indonesia, the United States, the UK, Canada, Australia, and any other country with a Hindu population. But each country also colors the holiday with its own local personality:

  • Called Phagwah in Guyana, families spend time together to play with colors and sing or listen to Chowtaals. They plant castor oil plants, which they burn at the end of the month.
  • In Mauritius, Hindus light a bonfire on Holi Dahan and throw colors the next day.
  • As a week-long festival in Nepal, the beginning of Holi is marked by installing a pole, called a chir, in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. At the end of the festival, this pole is taken down and used in a bonfire.
  • Holi festivals in countries like the US, UK, and Dubai often include live bands, Bollywood dance performances, yoga sessions, foam parties, and more.

Holi in the United States

Your local Hindu temple or Indian Students Association (ISA) may be hosting a small celebration. You should be able to find out on the temple’s website or by contacting your university’s current ISA group.

In addition to your local temple, there are several large-scale Holi events taking place around the end of March and throughout the summer. Generally, these events not only include color throwing, but live bands, yoga, and aarti.

Two popular mass-events include:

  • The Festival of Colors – Organized by ISKCON, this Utah-based Holi celebration has been one of the largest events in the country. While they may have a Holi event at more than one location, they are known for their Belur Math-style Krishna temple in Spanish Fork, Utah.
  • Houston Holi – You can also celebrate Holi in Texas with their color play, dance performances, and carnival rides for children.

Keep in mind that you’re likely to find several smaller festivals in every major city, including Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey, and Chicago.

But if you’d like to plan a private, family and friends only Holi celebration, that’s easy enough to do. You can find colored powder, decorations, and ingredients for your favorite dishes at your local Indian goods store, the closest Patel Bros outlet, or on Amazon.

Holi in Canada

Whether you are in Ontario, Vancouver, or Toronto, there are a number of Indian supermarkets that carry everything you need for a festive Holi.

While many of the major temples, like the Devi Mandir and BAPS are closed due to COVID, there are other public Holi events. One example is the Holi Love Festival, a major color play, and music festival, in Niagara Park.

Holi in the UK

While it’s not as big as a holiday like Christmas, Holi is certainly gaining traction in the United Kingdom. With over 1.4 million Indian residents, and most of them Hindu, the UK has numerous options for its residents looking forward to celebrating Holi.

Outside of the myriad of Indian grocery stores around London, there are also many online shops. Some popular options include Spices of India, Indian Grocery Store, DesiCart, and Veenas.

While these options provide food, you can also get your colors from Amazon, Etsy, or specialized sellers like Popat and Holi Colour Powder.

Holi in Australia

There are many local and online supermarkets in Australia to prepare for your Holi celebration. Some popular options include SuperBazaar, Radhe, and India at Home.

In addition to Amazon and Etsy, you can also find Holi powder at Colour Powder Australia.

When it comes to public celebrations, you’re likely to find festivals organized by your local university’s Indian Association or a nearby temple. You may also want to stay updated on events from the Hindu Council of Australia.

Holi in Dubai

Like any other popular country for Indian expats, there are plenty of options for Holi powder and your choice of Indian cuisine in the UAE.

The Al-Adil Store is a popular chain and online store for those looking for a little bit of everything. But you can also order colored powder and other must-haves from DesertCart and Amazon.

While Dubai is set to have its first Hindu temple in 2022, in the past local Holi events have been led by different organizations, including the India Club Dubai.

What about Virtual Holi?

Since the outbreak of COVID in early 2020, many groups have shifted to a “Virtual Holi”. These online events are usually live and include dance performances and discussions on the holiday.

Of course, you can also use technology to celebrate with your close friends and family in India.

Using Zoom, Skype, or another video platform, you can have your own virtual Holi. While you can’t throw colors, you can send Holi-themed e-cards or surprise relatives with gifts.

But since it’s often expensive to send packages abroad, it can be helpful to use your Indian bank account to buy from online shops like Amazon or Flipkart to send gifts. This not only saves you money, but you can feel confident that your gifts will arrive.

You May Also Like: How to Celebrate Maha Shivaratri

Holi Hacks

As always, there are some things you should keep in mind when throwing colors this Holi to protect your health. After all, being drenched in colors and water can have effects on your skin, hair, and overall health.

Here are some of our Holi best practices:

  • Apply oil to your face, hair, and other areas where you might be hit with color. This helps the colors wash off easier.
  • Wear a scarf, hat, or bandana to protect your hair.
  • Use sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • Put cotton inside your ears and cut your nails to prevent color from sticking in these sensitive areas.
  • Use lukewarm water to wash off the colored powder.
  • Use sustainable colors or other color alternatives. Flowers are a popular choice.