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Photos: Brooklyn welcomes spring with colorful back-to-back Holi celebrations

girl in a mask covered in pink powder at a holi festival
Brooklynites of all ages celebrated Holi this month, taking part in big colored powder parties to celebrate love and the return of spring.
Photos by Ximena Del Cerro

Spring’s slow return to Brooklyn is finally taking shape, and hundreds of people celebrated the new season and all it represents at Holi festivities across the borough. Patches of green grass, white and pink flower covered trees and people walking around with color powder on their clothes have been common sights over the last few weekends, with the warmer season bringing parties and joy to the city.

Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors and the Festival of Spring, is an Indian celebration of spring and new beginnings. For two consecutive weekends, events characterized by clouds of color in the air and Bollywood music took place in different neighborhoods.

On April 2, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights hosted a family-friendly event with performances from local dance schools and a color powder play. Children and adults alike participated in what turned into a clouds of yellow, green, blue, orange and pink, leaving everyone’s faces and clothes as record of the experience. 

The Ajna Dance Company, based in Manhattan gave a dance demonstration and workshop at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.
Students from Jiva Performing Arts Bharatnatyam danced in front of dozens of attendees on the museum’s rooftop to kick off their Holi celebration.
holi celebration dancer
Kids and adults alike were captivated by the performance, and danced along to the music when their turn came.
The beat of the Dhol drum guided the way to Brower Park to begin the main event of the day: the chance to play with and get thoroughly covered in colored powder.
It began as a friendly face coloring afternoon, but they all knew what to expect.
No shirts were left uncolored.
The most strategic participants wore eye and hair protection to get through the playful color fight…
…but not all could keep their footing.
Some became unrecognizable under thick layers of brightly-colored dust.
Families grew stronger through the chaos.
There was calm in the eye of the storm.
Hours into the fight, color and joy kept being spread.
The celebration had not stopped when it was time to head home.

The following Saturday, a different party, with the same taste of adventure, took place in Williamsburg. This time, the crowd was of age, but the atmosphere was similarly joyful.

The tradition was adapted into a dance party mixing Bollywood songs and hip-hop. Attendees sang along to the music at TailGate Brooklyn, an outdoor sports bar. 

Hundreds of New Yorkers, neighbors from New Jersey and tourists gathered together, armed with the traditional colored powder to throw at each other. 

The crowd danced lifting their hands covered in bright colors in the air.
Floral necklaces were handed out as symbols of the season of blooming.
It did not take long for everyone’s look to change radically.
Not one person was covered with less than three colors coming from all directions.
The party went on strong for six hours.
Love was in the air during the celebration.

Participants left each celebration tired, happy, and streaked with symbolic color. Holi doesn’t just symbolize the return of spring — the festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil and acknowledges the stories told about Hindu gods. Each colored powder holds a different meaning — blue represents the god Krishnu; green, nature and happiness; yellow, the turmeric powder used often in Indian traditions and rituals; and red, love and fertility. 

While the powder may wash away, the symbolism of the festival and all it celebrates is likely to stick with the Brooklynites who took part in each brilliant party for years to come.

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