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Holi celebrations start today! Here is a guide to India’s spring holiday and the best parties in the Bay Area

Indian friends celebrate Holi. | Getty Images

Celebrated for millennia in India and Nepal, Holi is one of the happiest holidays on the Hindu calendar. Dozens of Bay Area communities are planning big events for this spring celebration known for its tradition of participants throwing colorful powder at one another.

“Holi is all about rebirth, growth and friendship,” explained Anu Sehgal, founder of the Culture Tree, which puts on South Asian-themed educational and cultural programs. “It is about coming together and celebrating new life and beginnings.”

One origin story of Holi celebrates inclusivity. When Krishna was young, friends of the Hindu god became tired of everyone teasing him about his blue skin. Their solution? Put colors on one another so that everyone looked the same.

“Holi equalizes everyone,” Sehgal said. “We all look the same. Skin doesn’t matter.”

In ancient times, Holi would involve herbs and flowers that had bloomed in spring. Today, partiers throw gulal, the traditional brightly colored powder. 

Colorful gulal powder is used for the Holi spring festival in India. | Getty Images

Its no wonder that Holi parties attract revelers of all religions, castes and socioeconomic groups to gather together and “play with colors”  in India, Nepal and, increasingly, in communities of the Indian diaspora all over the world. 

“I am seeing a big explosion of Holi celebrations in the U.S. post-Covid,” said Sehgal, whose new children’s book about the holiday debuts this week. The idea of leaving behind the winter blues and coming out in spring to see crowds of friends is even more resonant after the pandemic. “

Human contact is a really important aspect of Holi," she said. "To apply color, you have to touch that person.”

Celebrated on full moon of Phalguna on the Hindu calendar, Holi falls on Wednesday, March 8, this year. But in the Bay Area, the Holi party season often continues for several weeks. 

Holi events typically include gulal colored powder, drums, music and a variety of traditional food and drinks made with “cooling spices” to mark the first hot days of the year in India.

So if you’ve never partied like Krishna and his friends, dress in white, grab your sunglasses and pick a Holi party from the list below. 

“Because who doesn’t want to play with colors? Adults do. Kids do,” Sehgal said. “It’s just fun.” 

A Holi party in California | Getty Images

The Best Holi Parties in the SF Bay Area

Happy Holi—or Holi Hai! Check out the calendar of Holi events that start today and continue through March and April 2023.

Gujarati Cultural Association's GCA-Holi

🗓️ Saturday, March 4 | 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
🎟️ Free
📍 40000 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont

Happy Holi Festival of Colors

🗓️ Saturday, March 11 | 2-6 p.m.
🎟️ $35 (fundraiser for stray dogs in Delhi, India)
📍 1222 Harrison St., San Francisco
🔗 Happy Holi

UPMA Holi presented by San Jose Sharks

🗓️ Saturday, March 11 | 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
🎟️ Free
📍 SAP Center, San Jose
🔗 UPMA Holi

Biggest Holi: Festival of Colors Milpitas

🗓️ Saturday, March 18  | 7-10 p.m.
🎟️ $3
📍 1507 North Milpitas Blvd., Milpitas
🔗 Biggest Holi

Holi Festival

🗓️ Saturday, March 18 | 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
🎟️ Free
📍 Leo J Ryan Park, Foster City
🔗 Holi Open Air

Rooftop Holi Music Festival 

🗓️ Saturday, March 25 | 12-5 p.m.
🎟️ $25-$40
📍 SVN West, San Francisco
🔗 Rooftop Holi

Splash 2023 Holi: A Celebration of Colors

🗓️ Sunday, March 26 | 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
🎟️ $10
📍 Emerald Glen Park, Dublin
🔗 Splash 2023

Shelley D. Fargo contributed additional research for this story.