I tried to find out if there was to be a celebration of it in Glasgow but couldn't get any information though I know the Hindu community has done it in the past. Subject still to endless rain I'm not sure we're convinced that drabness and winter weather have had their day though perhaps we should celebrate colour a bit more to remind us that there is light and hope even in drabness. So maybe this is the time to do away with dark winter colours and make a splash with something bright and joyful.
Holi is not a particularly religious festival though there are religious stories which give it a religious meaning. One is the story of the Lord Krishna who, as a mischievous young boy, threw coloured water over the milkmaids in his village. Another story is that of Prince Prahlad who was saved from a bonfire because of his steadfast worship of the god Vishnu. Thus bonfires also play a part in Holi and an effigy of the demon in Prahlad's story is often burnt on the fires. Singing and dancing around these fires can go on all night with not much sleep for neighbours as I know to my cost.
I like all this exuberance and have a lot of affection for Krishna. It's refreshing to have a god who delights in practical jokes, sings and dances, enjoys life while all the time saving and caring for his people. Sometimes I think religion and religious systems can be so solemn and take themselves too seriously. Holi is a good reminder to lighten up a little, I think.
The Baha'i community has also been celebrating this weekend. Friday was the festival of Naw Ruz and the celebrations will have been joyful if not as exuberant as the Hindu ones. Falling on the spring equinox it marks a new year and celebrates the new life of spring. It's preceded by a nineteen day fast during which the faithful refrain from eating and drinking during day light hours. This can't be too easy and I marvel at Baha'i's refusing coffee or biscuits while watching the rest of us tucking into them. I'm sure this preparation makes the celebratory meals at the end of the fast more enjoyable.
The Baha'i fast takes place at the same time as the Christian season of lent though Christians don't keep a fast in the way that Baha'is or Muslims do. The Christian discipline is now more likely to mean doing something positive or doing without something to remind us how self-centred, greedy and acquisitive we can be. Both the Baha'i and Christian scriptures speak about the purpose of the fast . The Baha'i scriptures say “All praise be unto God, Who hath ….enjoined on them the Fast that those possessed of means may become apprised of the woes and sufferings of the destitute.” Similarly the Christian scriptures tell us that the fast which pleases God is the one that ‘shares our bread with the hungry and shelters the homeless poor’ (Isaiah 58v.7). These times of fasting, therefore, are an opportunity for believers to reaffirm their commitment to the poor and marginalised of society, to affirm the values of service, moderation and compassion. What a gift this could be to a society which seems driven by materialism and greed. If only religious people lived up to the ideals of their faith. So often people call for less religion in the world but I think the world could actually do with more religion, the kind of religion that takes joy in the gift of life, is aware of our solidarity with those less fortunate than ourselves, that serves the common good and is open to building a culture of dialogue and hospitality between peoples.