Holi Bash with a Bollywood Splash!

Kids watching the Holi colors very excitedly

Holi, the festival of colors, is a time to have fun with friends and family while displaying our cultural heritage. For those of us who live outside India, we often rely on community events to celebrate Holi. I want to encourage you to do your own Holi party, share your culture with your friends and at the same time share these traditions with your children to help them learn our culture.

Young girl tossing Holi colors in the air

Holi is a popular ancient Hindu festival that signifies the arrival of spring, the end of winter and for others the beginning of a good spring harvest season. Holi is also known as the ‘festival of colors’, ‘festival of spring’, and festival of love. It is celebrated primarily in Indian subcontinent, but is now also celebrated globally throughout the diaspora from the Indian subcontinent.

Group taking Holi Festival Photo with Props

Holi is celebrated over the course of two days. The first evening, all the people in a community get together to burn a large bonfire and perform some prayer rituals around it. This is known as Holika-Dahan (burning of demon Holika) or Chhoti Holi. This originated based on the ancient story of the emperor Hiranyakashyap and his son Prahlad who was a Vishnu devotee. Hiranayakashyap tried to kill his son in a bonfire with his sisters’ Holika, assistance. Who had a robe with special powers to save her.  As good always wins, Prahlad walked out of the fire unharmed and Holika was burned to death.

Empty ceramic jars that were originally filled with colors

The day following the bonfire evening is known as Holi, Rang-wali Holi, Dhuleti, Dhulandi, or Phagwah. This originated from the land of Lord Krishna, where on this day he colored Radha and her friends with color to make them look like him. Since then, Braj-Bhumi (the land of lord Krishna) has been a very popular destination for grand Holi celebrations.

Pretty girl dancing on bollywood music during Holi celeberation

We have missed a good Holi celebration for several years and coincidentally this year Dr. A’s 40th birthday was very close to Holi. Hence, this year I decided to celebrate his birthday with a holy bash in Bollywood style. Here, I will share details of our decoration, food menu, colors and all the other fun arrangements I did. Everybody, including my family, thoroughly enjoyed the event!

People having fun during Holi party

Holi Event Venue

Holi, becomes complete with a rainbow of colors and often enjoyed with water. It is best suited as an outdoor event as colors are going to be everywhere. We are fortunate to have a big enough backyard overlooking to a golf course, it was an easy choice for me. However, you can arrange Holi in picnic shelters or other open areas, where you have access to bathrooms and clean water. Outdoor venues obviously also allow everyone to enjoy the nice spring weather.

Holi event venue in Backyard decorated with beautiful colors

Holi Party Invitations

You can choose any form of invitation, you wish. I used an Evite invitation to be able to keep tabs on our guest list. If you are inviting your local or work friends who have not celebrated Holi before, be sure to include some tips or instruction as an attachment to your invitation. For example, I requested all our guests to wear their favorite white ensembles that could be disposed off, if needed. I also advised them to do some internet research on Holi, bring some towels and covers for car seats for their drive back home. You want the guest to come prepared to have fun.

Ladies and kids taking picture at Holi party with props

Holi Celebration Venue Decorations

I wanted the ambiance to be very colorful in line with the Holi theme of the ‘festival of colors.’ At the same time, an open venue is needed for large gathering. One simple option that I used tulle fabric, of various colors. As you can see in the picture below, these fabrics coupled with carefully selected table/chair covers of various colors created a very nice and attractive venue, alive with bright colors.

Backyard with Holi Party Decorations

I bought 40-yard rolls of tulle fabric bolts of different colors from Amazon. Dr. A was able to staple one end of the fabric to the house on wood siding. The other end of the fabric was tied to either poles or trees. Before cutting, left some extra length to run to the bottom of the pole or tree. Do not tie these up too high or too tight. You want some slack in them, so that guests would be able to see them easily. This did take some time to do.

Holi party backyard decoration using the tulle fabrick

I rented white linen with colored overlay for tables and for chairs, white covers with matching color ties. Make sure to select bright colors to go with the overall Holi theme. The tulle fabric decorations, combined with the colorful table overlays and chair ties, created a very welcoming atmosphere.

Holi Party Decorations

Last, but one of the most important components of creating ambiance is music. I hired a DJ with great skill in Indian Bollywood music and some knowledge of the western world popular songs.  A good DJ plays a critical role in building the overall excitement and get people moving. Dance and music is an essential part of any Holi celebration.

Holi Party Decorations

Holi Colors

Holi colors are an essential and most important part of any Holi festival celebration. Hence, my first step in planning this event was to figure out where to arrange the good quality colors from. My conclusion was that Amazon offers by far the best selection of Holi colors. You can go from regular every day to all organic colors made with natural pigments. It was easy to find colors manufactured in USA with safe and non-toxic ingredients.

Holi Colors
Holi Colors

Large number of choices of colors made from 100% FD&C and D&C approved dyes and cornstarch are available in different sized packages. Amazon has all sorts of packing available. Individual sized 100 gm small packs to bulk 5, 10 or 25 lb bulk packs. Buy the best quality and highest grade colors, to minimize the risk of any harmful effects and adulterants.

Holi Festival Colors
Holi Festival Colors
Holi Festival Colors

I wanted everyone to have fun with colors and I made sure that I have plenty of them. I ordered sufficient 5 lb bags of colors and assorted individual color packets for people to be able to carry colors while playing Holi.  Abundance of colors, really made the whole event fun.

Holi Individual Packet Stand
Holi Individual Packet Stand

In addition to the colors, I ordered a large number of self-sealing bulk-fill water balloons and water blasters/guns. I did not use any water based colors or hard colors.

Holi Water Balloons
Holi Water Balloons

In order to get the children and guests involved as soon as they entered the venue, I set all the colors and party favors on a ‘Welcome’ table in a beautiful and inviting manner. So, as soon as guests arrive, they can have their party favors to wear during the event and enjoy.

Holi Party Welcome Table
Welcome Table

Coincidentally, I was in India few months ago. At that time, I already had in mind to do some sort of event for Dr. A’s 40th birthday, but had not decided on the Holi theme yet. I did know that A’s coworkers would join who are all very excited about our culture. So, for men’s I brought some vibrant colored scarves to tie around their waist and for ladies a pair of Rajasthani lakh bangles. People outside India, really like Indian bangles and hence I thought it would be a great addition to this celebration. For kids, I got water guns to them to play and then take with them as a party favor.

Holi Party Favors
Party Favors

While I was decorating and arranging the welcome table, I chose to make it colorful and catchy with Indian flair. So, I just grabbed some props from my studio and arrange them on the table to fill with colors. You can also arrange these in your own way, depending on what you have available. Overall, the ‘Welcome’ table had scarves for men, bangles for ladies, and bulk colors in different size/type containers for everyone to enjoy with.

Holi Colors Display

Everyone had the time of their lives without the slightest worries in their mind.

Props, Party favors and Photo Booth

People love to take pictures to capture their memories and hence photo booths are a great addition to any event regardless to the occasion. It adds a different dimension to any event by providing a space to come together and take pictures with your friends and family in a setting that is not typical to studios or natural scenery.

Holi Photo Props Picture
Holi Photo Props Picture

Initially, I was planning to make my own photo props with images and text, but while searching the web I came across some beautiful pictures. Further research on those pictures lead me to an Etsy shop that sold those digital design for printing at home. I bought two packages to print at home, one was Holi props and one was Bollywood props. I got the sticks from the Michael’s store, and used hot glue to glued on props. You can also get them from any other local crafts store.

Photo Props

The photo props were arranged on a separate table near the photo backdrop. Put some on the table, some in vases and mix it with colors. Get creative!

Holi Photo Props

For photo backdrop, I was first thinking on making this structure from scratch with wood. But to reduce my work, I started looking for similar structures in the market. My search led me to this trellis, that is typically used to support plants. These are available in all different sizes and styles. It took me some time to find the right piece for my need. I was looking for a square grid and a tall enough structure to make it as a backdrop. I was lucky to find the one shown in the pictures below, that I bought from Amazon after searching several other sources.

Holi Photo Backdrop
Holi Backdrop Ensembles

To make the backdrop colorful, I wrapped alternate grid space with different colored yarn. Be aware that this took much more time then I anticipated as it was important to get a tight and uniform coverage with yarn. You can get the yarn from any art and craft store. After wrapping the yarn, I hung the ensembles I got from India in the alternate spaces. These you can change based on the theme of your event.

Lets Play Holi!

Kid playing holi
Lets Play Holi

Now, lets get to some real fun! Lets play Holi! Once it gets started, there is no stopping.