What is Holi? Ancient Hindu festival at Chicago’s Navy Pier celebrates renewal, growth, health with colors of spring

CHICAGO (WLS) — Sunday marks the beginning of spring and at Chicago’s Navy Pier Saturday, a major celebration marked that occasion — the Hindu festival of Holi.

The festive event is part of the attraction’s Global Connections series presented by ComEd.

Holi is joyful powder throwing in the colors of spring. A celebration of renewal, growth and health.

The powder throwing was strictly an outside affair, but under the dome of the Aon Ballroom, the mayor, diplomats and Chicagoans new and old reveled in the rituals of this centuries-old festival.

“It’s a spring day. The city is reopening,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at the event.

“I am from Brazil, so it is very important to see other cultures. It is happening all over the world and I think Chicago does a great job of bringing everybody,” said Alice Abreu, a Colombia College student.

Dance is in Holi’s DNA, as little symbolizes better the triumph of good over evil, led here by Bollywood Groove.

“I don’t know how to describe it, it’s just something you have to get up and dance and feel it,” said fellow Colombia College student, Ann Fernandez.

And everything is better with food.

“We are really starting to see people come indulge and be safe about it, and that is the most exciting thing. I am excited to see us go back to being normal,” said Ali Dewjee, with Bombay Eats.

Global Connections at Navy Pier has celebrated Chinese New Year and Carnivale as the pandemic has ebbed.

“We also want to make sure that all of the communities that make up this beautiful diverse group of our city are acknowledged, get recognition through those international partnerships,” said Smita Shah, chair of the New Delhi Committee and Chicago Sister Cities International board member with Navy Pier.

RELATED: Widowed women in India celebrate Holi

After a two-year absence, Chicago fusion band Funkadesi – now in their 25th year – trumpeted spring, and perhaps a return to normalcy.

“The audience, we just need to connect more and more post-COVID,” said Rahul Sharma, with Funkadesi. “We need to remind ourselves every day that we all belong to each other and we need to show up for each other.”

This is the last of the Global Connections presented by ComEd events at Navy Pier for now, but judging by the enthusiasm, organizers say it will return next spring.

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