In India, Nepal, and around the world – including the UK – Hindus mark the festival by playing with coloured power and water, and lighting bonfires.
Images of vast crowds throwing coloured powder into the air have become famous, and reflects the joyousness the festival brings.
Here’s what it falls in 2023, and the events taking place in the UK to mark it.
When is Holi 2023?
This year Holi falls on Wednesday 8 March.
The date varies each year as it follows a Hindu lunar calendar, rather than the Gregorian calendar.
Holi begins with the full moon in the Hindu calendar month of Phalguna.
The first evening is called Holika Dahan, or Chhoti Holi, on which friends and families gather around a bonfire to celebrate the victory of good over evil and pray that this victory will be mirrored inside of them, so any internal evil is destroyed.
The next day is called Holi, or Rangwali Holi.
How is Holi celebrated?
In India, Nepal and around the world, Hindus mark the festival by playing with colours and lighting bonfires.
Holi gained fame internationally for its custom of throwing coloured powder into the air and over other people.
The Encyclopedia Britannica says: “Participants throw coloured water and powders on one another, and, on this one day only, licence is given for the usual rankings of caste, gender, status, and age to be reversed.
“In the streets the celebrations are often marked by ribald language and behaviour, but at its conclusion, when everyone bathes, dons clean white clothes, and visits friends, teachers, and relatives, the ordered patterns of society are reasserted and renewed.
“In many locales, celebrants kindle an early morning bonfire that represents the burning of the demoness Holika (or Holi), who was enlisted by her brother, Hiranyakashipu, in his attempt to kill his son Prahlada because of the latter’s unshakable devotion to Vishnu.
“The burning of Holika prompts worshippers to remember how Vishnu (in the form of a lion-man, Narasimha) attacked and killed Hiranyakashipu, vindicating both Prahlada and Vishnu.”
What Holi events are there in the UK?
There are a number of Holi events in London this week, including the Magic of India: Holi Colour Dance Party on Sunday 12 March in Swiss Cottage Park. It includes performances from drummers, DJs and traditional Indian dancers. Tickets start at £20 for adults and £14.50 for children, and come with a pack of coloured powder to help you celebrate appropriately. Find out more here.
For a night-time party vibe, Holi Fest is taking place in central London on Saturday 18 March, calling itself the “largest colour throwing, indoor festival celebrating the Festival of Colours”. It starts at 8pm and finishes at 4am, with acts including Panjabi MC, AJ Wavy and DJ Sachy on the schedule. Tickets start £10. Find out more here.
If you want to celebrate in Birmingham you can check out the Holi Paint Party UK Tour, which is on Wednesday 8 March. This is a ticketed event from 10pm to 3am at a secret venue that you will discover after purchasing your ticket. The tickets start at £5 and include a free white T-shirt and paint powder. Find out more here.
Rain Dance Colour Festival’s Elements is taking place in Manchester‘s Chorlton Park on Saturday 18 March between 12pm and 5.30pm. The events is a “global celebration of music, nature and wellbeing through Holi”. Adult tickets start at £12. Find out more here.
On Saturday 11 March in Cardiff you can join the Holi Colour Run at Talybont Social Centre between 1-4pm. “Meet us at Talybont Social Centre dressed in white and leave with a rainbow of colours on your clothes and memories in your heart!” the organisers say. Tickets are free. Find out more here.
In Edinburgh there is the Holi Festival of Colours and Spring Equinox Celebration on Saturday 18 March. It takes place at the Salisbury Centre from 1-5pm and promises an outdoor celebration centred around a garden fire. Find out more here.
What is the story behind Holi?
The festival is linked to several Hindu legends, but the overwhelming theme is the triumph of good.
One of the most popular stories describes the pastimes of the Hindu deity Krishna when he was in Vrindavan, northern India.
He would get into lots of mischief; play-acting, stealing butter from cowherd girls and entertaining everyone he met.
Sometimes he played coloured water games with his milkmaid friends, spreading joy and love and dispelling greed and anger.
The story teaches us about love in its most sublime form, where there is no selfishness, greed, envy or anger.