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Holi celebration in Winooski marks a colorful (if snowy) start to spring

A woman and a man give each other a side hug. They have different color powders on their heads and clothes. They are both smiling. In the background,  there are other people covered in colorful powder, moving around in the gym. The room is dusty.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
The Sharmas, who live in South Burlington, dance and sing at the Holi celebration held at Winooski School District's gym on Sunday, March 24.

Today is Holi, a festival that can be traced back to ancient India. Now it is celebrated across religions, cultures and countries.

One of its distinctive trademarks is people covering each other with colorful powders, and on Sunday, the Winooski School District gym turned into something like a rainbow explosion. That’s where the Bhutanese Nepali Community of Vermont hosted Holi this year, moving it inside after the weekend's snow storm.

A couple hundred people showed up, and things started in the school auditorium, where everyone was welcomed in English, Nepali and Hindi.

This story was produced for the ear. We highly recommend listening to the audio. We’ve also provided a transcript, which has been edited for length and clarity.

Tul Niroula: Welcome everyone!

Rita Chamlagai: Swagat chha!

Prashant Yadav: Namaskar!

Tul Niroula: Today, we gather here to celebrate the vibrant and joyous festival of Holi, a festival that signifies the triumph of good over evil. The arrival of spring and the renewal of life. ... It is the time to forgive and forget to mend broken relationships and to start anew. … Now, I would like to request Durda Dhakal to come and recite Holi mantra so we will be blessed with that.

Durda Dhakal: Om shanti, om shanti, om shanti. Happy Holi! Happy Holi!

Tul Niroula: Please do not run away, we have food, we have plenty of color powder, enjoy yourself and please follow the teachers to the new gym, thank you.

Jeetan Khadka: Everybody can come in the front, grab a color, go around and wish everybody "Happy Holi!" You can dance, you can, you know, jump, you can do whatever you want. But be safe!

Alina Rai: It's actually really fun. I thought it was gonna be different because it's in the gym, but it's actually really fun. Other than getting your eyes all blurry!

Shiv Sharma: I'm so happy that we have been able to observe it here with — not only Nepali or Bhutanese or Hindu Indian community, but all of Winooski — everybody! It's really a victory of good over evil. Definitely. So much going on in the world right now, if we can come together, be one and celebrate — I think we need to spread this to everywhere, everywhere. 

We have had smaller events, but this is the largest so far. ... One thing I'm so happy that Winooski school district is allowing to use us their gym. It's a big place, and I don't know how they are going to clean it! I hope everything goes well, because cleaning is the part that — nobody wants to do that. But there are so many volunteers. 

Photos from the day

A side profile picture of an older male standing at a microphone. He's wearing a tweed jacket with a plaid shirt. Behind him, there's a powerpoint slide projected on a large pull-down screen that says, "Holi festival, happpening here today."
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Tul Niroula, a multilingual liaison for the Winooski School District, welcomes everyone to the Bhutanese Nepali Community of Vermont's Holi celebration on Sunday.
People walk into the gym, where the dancing and throwing color powder
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Padam Thapa, who works as a multilingual liaison for the Winooski School District, welcomes people into the gym for food, dancing and getting covered in colorful powder.
A photo of people in white shirts and black pants, seen from the back, with one person whispering in another person's ear. They're all in a gym full of people.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Alina Rai, 16, right, chats with friends during the Holi celebration in the gym at the Winooski School District on Sunday. She said she wasn't sure about celebrating inside beforehand, but that it turned out to be fun.
Patrons line up to get food from tins on a table.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
The food, of course, is an important part of Holi.
Bowls of Yellow, Green and Blue powder sitting on a table.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
The colored powder, prepared for Holi celebrants to cover one another with.
A line of people in white shirts stand in front of a table, holding bowls of different color powders. They stand across people who take the powder and press it on their forehead and cheeks
Adiah Gholston
/
Vermont Public
As a thank you to Winooski School District staff and volunteers, they received their colors first.
Groups of people are in white shirts and covered in different color powder. People are smiling. The room is dusty.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Amid shouts of "Happy Holi!" everyone gets covered in powder of all colors.
There is blue, red and purple powder on the gym floor. There are shoe imprints in the powder.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
The aftermath of Sunday's Holi celebration, which volunteers generously would go on to clean up.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

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Elodie is a reporter and producer for Vermont Public. She previously worked as a multimedia journalist at the Concord Monitor, the St. Albans Messenger and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, and she's freelanced for The Atlantic, the Christian Science Monitor, the Berkshire Eagle and the Bennington Banner. In 2019, she earned her MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Southern New Hampshire University.