People throw cornstarch of various colors at each other during a Holi celebration in downtown Juneau in 2023. (Photo by Cody Bennett)

People throw cornstarch of various colors at each other during a Holi celebration in downtown Juneau in 2023. (Photo by Cody Bennett)

Holi festival bringing more than the usual colors of spring to downtown Juneau

Traditional Hindu celebration expands with new events, venues in third year.

Given all the colorful conflicts in the community of late, spending an evening at a traditional Hindu celebration involving people literally throwing colors at each other seems a suitable way to vividly start spring.

Of course, folks wearing suits might consider changing into something more befitting — the host suggests a white t-shirt to fully capture all of the communal colors — before showing up.

A celebration of Holi — also known as the Festival of Colors, Love, and Spring — is being hosted in downtown Juneau for the third straight year on Monday night by Spice Juneau Indian Cuisine. Nimmy Philips, the restaurant’s owner, said this year’s festival is also expanding to other downtown establishments, with the Downtown Business Association and the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council serving as co-hosts.

“It’s a triumph of good over evil,” she said, describing the tradition of Holi that commemorates the victory of the supreme being Vishnu over the evil king Hiranyakashipu. “Everybody celebrates the Holi festival mainly because it brings people together. You forget your differences, you work out your differences and come together.”

Holi traditionally is celebrated for a night and day on the last full moon day of the Hindu luni-solar calendar month, Philips said. The festival usually features a bonfire on the first night, followed by the throwing of colors during the second, but the event in Juneau will just feature the latter at 9 p.m. — the time of the celebration in India.

“Every October I go to India and I bring back 30 to 20 kilograms of colors, and the colors are made with cornstarch and food coloring,” she said. “And we throw it in the air, throw it at each other.”

For people concerned about suffering the holiday hues, colored cornstarch is biodegradeable, non-toxic if inhaled or consumed, and washes off easily with water, according to the website holidolly.com. As for clothing, “most of it will just blow right off unless you get wet. We recommend you to wash your clothes right after the festival. Should the colors not go away please use some bleach.”

Other events planned by Spice for the celebration include a traditional meal to start the evening, live music and then at 8 p.m. a “Bollywood dance flash mob” that Philips said is definitely not part of Holi tradition.

“It’s just one other added fun event for the community, that’s all it is,” she said.

In addition, the restaurant’s adjacent Spice Café & Gallery will feature the group art exhibit “Beyond Words” by Hali Denton, Kathy Hamblett, Shelli Hanson, Pua Maunu, Cynthia Pring-Ham, Teri Robus and Barbara Shepherd.

Philips openly acknowledges part of the goal of expanding the event is getting more people to visit downtown businesses during what’s typically a slow time of year for many of them.

Other participants and activities so far, according to the JAHC, include Alaska Robotics Gallery hosting board games; Amalga Distillery and Devil’s Club Brewery Co. featuring special drinks; and the Juneau Artists Gallery and numerous offering special sales.

Also, JAHC notes in an announcement, people interested in participating in the Bollywood dance flash mob should RSVP to nimmy@spicejuneau.com and plan to attend a rehearsal starting at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Treadwell Ballroom at the Baranof Hotel.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 15

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

Students leave the Marie Drake Building, which houses local alternative education offerings including the HomeBRIDGE correspondence program, on April 4. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Educators and lawmakers trying to determine impacts, next steps of ruling denying state funds for homeschoolers

“Everybody wants to make sure there’s a way to continue supporting homeschool families,” Kiehl says.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, April 14, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

TJ Beers holds a sign to advocate for the rights of people experiencing homelessness outside the state Capitol on April 9. Beers was homeless for four years and in three states. “I don’t know how I survived,” he said. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Lawmakers weigh whether to reduce or acknowledge rights of growing Alaska homeless population

As cities try to house people, Dunleavy’s protest bill would further criminalize them, advocates say.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, April 13, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, April 12, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, April 11, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The sky and mountains are reflected in the water on April 5, 2012, at the Kootznoowoo Wilderness in the Tongass National Forest’s Admiralty Island National Monument. Conservation organizations bought some private land and transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service, resulting in an incremental expansion of the Kootznoowoo Wilderness and protection of habitat important to salmon and wildlife. (Photo by Don MacDougall/U.S. Forest Service)
Conservation groups’ purchase preserves additional land in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

A designated wilderness area in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the largest… Continue reading

A welcome sign is shown Sept. 22, 2021, in Tok. President Joe Biden won Alaska’s nominating contest on Saturday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Biden wins more delegates in Alaska and Wyoming as he heads toward Democratic nomination

President Joe Biden nudged further ahead in the Democratic nomination for reelection… Continue reading

Most Read