The Need for Play

Tomorrow is the Indian festival called Holi, the festival of color. On this remarkable day, children and adults alike revel in the streets throwing colored powder and water balloons, smearing each others’ faces with color, covering everyone in bright colorful hues.

Traditionally, this festival marked the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Held the day after the full moon in the Hindu month Falgun (late Feb-mid March), Holi is a celebration of exuberance and fun, playfulness and laughter. People eat decadent sweets and spend time with family and friends.

In some regions of India, the festivities begin the night before on the day of the full moon, with a big bonfire symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. In one Hindu myth, the evil demon  Hiranyakashipu wanted to be worshipped as a god – however, his own son Praladha denied him and worshiped the true god Vishnu. In his rage, the demon demanded his sister Holika kill his son, so she tried to trick him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika possessed a special power to withstand fire, yet in the end Vishnu saved his devotee and caused Holika to perish in the fire. Hence the Holi fire burns to remind us of the ultimate power of goodness.

Another myth connected to Holi is the story of Krishna’s love for Radha. Krishna, characterized by his blue-colored skin, wondered whether his love would be returned by fair-skinned Radha. It was suggested that he paint her face to reflect the irrelevance of skin color in the face of true love. Indeed their undying love remains an inspiration. Many couples ensure their faces are painted to match on Holi.

Some view Holi as a New Year celebration, a chance to start anew and give up bad habits. They forgive or repay debts, and try to resolve old conflicts. Everyone, however, takes it as a day when the spirit of play takes over, no matter your age, social class or financial status.

On this Holi celebration, here in the closing weeks of grey winter in the Northern hemisphere, let’s take this opportunity to inject our day with some fun – wear a vibrant color, place a bright flower on your desk, or even play with some face paint. Challenge your children in their favorite game, or ambush your love with a pillow fight.We all NEED color and play in our lives to balance the hard work we do. Tomorrow, indulge in your favorite form of play. Let’s whoop it up!


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