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Holi Festival of Colours / Cultural Appropriation

Children celebrating Holi in India

To my astonishment I came across a post on facebook mentioning the start of the Holi Festival of Colours in Mexico City. I was very intrigued by this since I was under the impression there weren't that many Indians living in that country let alone they would celebrate the Hindu fest Holi. But intrigue turned into anger when I found out that this festival is said to only be "inspired" by the religious celebration. In other words someone stole certain elements like the use of colours and the name and give their own meaning to it. The people behind this initiative have made the celebration into a world wide event that apparently is getting bigger and more popular. Let me explain why I have a problem with this concept.

Typical Holi celebration somewhere

Holi originally is a Hindu religious festival. There is an importance and significance to this celebration which you can read about on this page. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships, and is also celebrated as a thanksgiving for a good harvest. Most noteworthy to remember is that it marks the beginning of spring. So there is a specific time and date when this gets celebrated. The Festival of Colours doesn't follow this and celebrates this according to their own program.

It does seem that this Festival of Colours is also about bringing people together and letting them have a good time which I don't have any problems with whatsoever. Only it does make me wonder if the people who go to this event actually know that there is a significance and meaning to the use of the colours. And that it's not some made up gimmick. This is what bothers me the most.  Nowhere on their website is mentioned where Holi comes from or what it means. Sure it is said in the about us section that this event is inspired by the real and original Holi celebration and that they wanted to bring it to Europe. I guess that could be seen as something positive if it weren't for the fact that it fails to explain anything concerning the real religious and cultural celebration. I am all for unification of all the people in this world like Bob Marley preached and sang: One Love! One Heart! Let's get together and feel all right. However I do think we get there quicker if we create more understanding and respect for each other by learning about people's background and cultures. How can you achieve this if the first thing you have done is basically borrow elements without giving credit to the original celebration and culture. Especially since contrary to the original Hindu celebration this festival is a commercial venture.

Holi Festival Colours Festival in Amsterdam

Downplaying or even blatantly ignoring the cultural and spiritual roots in my opinion is offensive and criminal. I mean it's already hard to stomach that the Hindu swastika a symbol for good fortune got stolen by the Nazis and turned into a symbol of something negative and evil. 

But now again some Germans think it's ok to steal a piece of culture they like and then claim it's something they have created on their own simply for commercial gain. But worst of it all is that by massively expanding their concept the danger arises that people will follow the holy inspired event and eventually will forget what it is inspired by and assume it is something made up by some supposedly clever person. It's unacceptable and should be stopped at all costs. I am very aware that traditions and cultures change and evolve and essentially I am all for that. However the removal of trivializing significance and commercialization of an traditional celebration can lead to destruction of a culture. And that simply won't fly with me. You can't put a number to values and humanity. In the end it's only true thing you have. 

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