India’s annual spring festival of colors comes to Shanghai
Holi is a spring festival celebrated in India, Nepal and now across the world annually on the evening of March 12 and the day of the 13th. It is a festival of color, love, laughter, fun, spring, happiness and vibrancy.
The celebrations span two days; whereby on the night before a huge bonfire is lit with religious rituals being said in order to destroy all internal evils. The next morning is when a huge carnival of colors takes place. It’s a fun activity in which people chase each other with colored water or powdered dyes. The beauty of the festival is that everyone can get involved.
As a British Indian in Shanghai, I naturally kept my ear out in regards to any events for Holi. Fortunately, I’m part of an International Indian’s WeChat group which posted about a Holi event being held by Wanna Travel. The event, called the Social Indian Party, took place last week at Kebabs On The Grille, an Indian restaurant near People’s Square Station.
A group of friends and I arrived around 7:30 pm. At first there seemed to be no space, chairs or tables for us; but the waiter quickly sorted that out. The venue was nicely decorated with colorful balloons and beautiful, real flower petals sprinkled on all the tables. The atmosphere was complimented with Indian, Hindi, Bollywood and Punjabi Bhangra music.
The food was nicely laid out in a buffet style and a bar was also readily available for beer, wine and soft drinks. Though a formal, social dinner like this isn’t the usual way to celebrate Holi, it was really nice to devour some scrumptious Indian food and meet new people.
Extra point gained
Lana from Russia, whom I met at the event, said, “I think it attracted very friendly people. For me, the most important part (of Holi) is meeting new people. I didn’t really know much about the festival before. Maybe I’ll celebrate it again in the future.”
To add to the colorful theme of Holi, paints were provided for us to put onto our faces. My Chinese friend, Layla, said that this was the best part for her. Most people had at least some color on their face; I, of course, went all out and was covered in colors by the end of the evening.
My Chinese friend Grace Yi who also attended the event, commented that, “The best part was that it was my first time celebrating Holi. This event was nice to be in such a lively atmosphere and experience something exotic. And after a day or two I noticed a friend celebrated Holi in India, and he is Chinese. Interesting to find you had something in common with a not so familiar friend and it seems to make you two more close. Extra point gained.”
I noticed that there was a lack of information given in regards to the true meaning of Holi, its story and the origin of this colorful festival. It’s a shame there was no speech or presentation about this, as there were definitely more non-Indians than Indians at the event.
Bringing culture to Shanghai
The organizer, Anastasia from Wanna Travel, said that, “As a travel company, we are trying to bring cultural and cuisine discovery to the Shanghai community, for both expats and locals. We organize monthly thematic social parties where participants can try food and learn something about a new country.”
This month they chose India, with Holi as a perfect occasion for a celebration. Participants had a chance to try authentic Indian food, dance to Indian music, enjoy face painting as well as meet new friends from all over the world.
On Saturday, another event held at a community center in Changning district was advertised as “A Taste of Holi” and provided henna tattoos and Bollywood dancing. Additionally, on Saturday evening Bar Rouge had a Bollywood Holi Festival event.
Of course, all these celebrations are incomparable to that of India or places like England and Canada that have a much bigger Indian population. A friend from Turkey, Furkan Erdogan who is studying at Fudan University said during the event, “This is the first time I’m celebrating Holi. I’d never heard about it. It was good fun.”
Shanghai reminds me a lot of London, but a much bigger version. This is due to its city vibe and also due to its international expat population. Similar to London, there are people residing, working and visiting Shanghai from all over the world.
People of varying nationalities celebrate Holi in Shanghai.