Every year since 2013, the Global Citizenship Organization brings the Holi Festival to the Maryville College campus. On March 23, students from all backgrounds came together on the CCM lawn. They celebrated the coming of spring and shared a joyful moment.
For 30 minutes, participants were hosed with water, threw water balloons, and they also threw colored powder at each other.
“We celebrate Holi at MC mainly because it is a unique experience that many people may never have the chance to live otherwise,” said Nami Falhan, president of GCO. “It also brings people from very different backgrounds together.”
Unlike the previous 3 years, GCO decided to host the event close to the date of the real Holi. Traditionally, it is celebrated on a specific day each year. In 2016, that day was Thursday, March 24. GCO leaders knew students would likely leave campus on Thursday afternoon to fully enjoy their long Easter weekend, so they decided to celebrate the festival one day early.
“We wanted to stick to the tradition this year, and not just throw powder at each other on a random day,” Falhan said. Their strategy worked and around 40 students and faculty participated.
Many students have to deal with upcoming homework, papers and exams. Some decided to put these aside for an hour and gathered to have some fun.
“They can take a break from their stressful lives,” Falhan said, pointing out the benefit of events like Holi.
It was also an occasion to fundraise for the Read Thread Movement, which aims to fight against human trafficking and slavery. Admission to the event was $2, and all funds were given to the organization. For GCO, it was a great way to share a Hindu tradition while helping a cause.
“We realized our student body doesn’t know much about the festival nor this organization, so we tried to spread awareness,” Falhan said.
Before the celebration, the GCO leaders had to prepare the event. With the help of a few GCO members, they filled the cups with powder. In the end, the tables were covered with no less than 1,200 cups of powder in various vibrant colors. Red, blue, green, pink, orange, yellow; there was a large palette selection to cover people from head to toes.
But students did not complain about looking so colorful.
“I spit blue and sneezed green for a while” said Youna Rivallain, who participated very enthusiastically.
Like others, Rivallain threw powder at people she might not have known. For everybody, it was the event was a way to bring a diverse group of students together. The fun and colorful afternoon left its mark on people and sometimes on clothing or furniture.
“My bathtub still remembers Holi very vividly, but it was awesome and a great way to practice interfaith dialogue very concretely!” Rivallain said.
After all cups were emptied, the participants took a group picture for the memory. But this is not the only memory they have. Indeed, some may still have their scalps slightly tainted pink or blue or red. Some may regret choosing to wear a white tee-shirt for the occasion, but the Holi celebration at MC definitely left a mark on both people and things.