FESTIVAL OF HOLI
By Caroline Donne
Date varies from year to year - please check the REonline Festivals Calendar
for Whole School or Class Assembly
The coming of Spring and
new life; good is stronger than evil.
Preparation and materials
- Background: Holi is the Indian Spring Festival. Some of
the common features are the harvesting of winter crops, and building a bonfire
on which coconut and grains are roasted and shared as prasada (holy food).
Often young children and babies are carried around the bonfire and this is
thought to offer them protection from harm. The image of fire is linked to the
story of Prahlada and Holika (see below).
- Sometimes the
celebrations are deliberately riotous, for example the squirting of coloured
dyes or paints. This is linked with the themes of spring and fertility and can
also be traced back to the god Krishna, who liked to play practical jokes and
had coloured dye thrown over him by a milkmaid. Very often at Holi people will
play practical jokes on one another. It's a festival of great variety and great
materials: A picture of flames or a bonfire. Grains of wheat or barley, and
fresh coconut. These can be shared out during the assembly, in which case the
grains could be lightly baked in oil and honey and the fresh coconut grated or
cut into small chunks.
- You will also
need a candle.
- Introduce the theme of spring.
Talk about the things associated with the coming of spring (e.g. buds on trees,
spring flowers, crops beginning to grow, lambs, lighter evenings). Ask the
children what they notice about spring and what they like about it. How do
things change in the spring? Talk about the differences they notice in the
local park, on the journey to school, etc.
- Hindus, who live in many parts of
the world and especially in India, celebrate a spring festival called Holi at
this time. It's a time to harvest crops grown in the winter and to give thanks
for the coming of the spring.
At Holi big bonfires are built and lit at
night. Ask the children to think about what they like about bonfires. Ask them
how they feel when they see the flames leaping in the dark. At the festival of
Holi bonfires remind people that the winter days are coming to an end.
It's a time of hope and a time to celebrate new life. Very often
children and babies are carried around the bonfires, because Hindus believe
this will keep them safe from harm. Grains are roasted on the fires, and also
coconut, and then this food is shared as a way of celebrating Holi and of
giving thanks to God (if appropriate you might like to share the coconut pieces
and grains with the children at this point).
- Introduce the story by
explaining that there is another link with fire in one of the stories that is
often told at Holi. It's the story of the demon Holika and her nephew Prince
Story. Once there was a cruel and wicked king, who
thought that he was so important, that all his people should worship him, just
as if he were a god. The king had a son called Prahlada. Prahlada worshipped
one of the most important Hindu gods, called Vishnu. He knew that his own
father was not a god and that it was wrong to worship him.
Prahlada refused to worship his father, the king became furious and he had his
own son thrown into a pit full of hissing snakes. But the god Vishnu protected
Prahlada and he came out of the snake-pit without a bite.
Then the king
grew even more furious and ordered his son to be trampled on by a herd of
elephants. But again, Vishnu protected Prahlada and he was unharmed.
The wicked king had a wicked sister called Holika. 'I shall ask her to
help me,' he thought. Holika had magical powers, which meant that she could not
be burned by fire. Together Holika and her wicked brother the king made a plan.
Holika took Prahlada to the top of a huge bonfire, expecting him to be burned
up in the fire. But Prahlada prayed to Vishnu and suddenly Holika disappeared
in to the flames. Her magic powers were destroyed and Prahlada was safe.
And so Prahlada, who put his faith in Vishnu, was saved. Hindus tell
this story to help them remember that however bad things are, the force of good
is more powerful than the force of evil.
on the themes
Talk about the meaning of the story. Why
was Prince Prahlada able to walk safely through the flames? Who helped him?
Explore the connection between the celebration of Holi and the lighting of
bonfires, and the fire in the story. Think about the coming of spring. Why do
people think of it as a hopeful time? For many people it is a sign that life
goes on. The darkness of winter, when nothing grows, is always followed by
spring, when everything begins to grow again.
Light the candle and invite the children
to keep a time of quiet. Ask them to think about what they like about spring.
God of all,
Thank you for the spring.
you for the colours of spring in the blossom on the trees,
in the different greens of the grass and leaves.
Thank you for
the beautiful world that you have made.