September 11th brought the colour festival to Thessaloniki, bringing together thousands of people of all ages, from young children to the older generations. The festival was next to the dam of Thermi a beautiful area with picturesque views, no matter the weather or occasion. The bus going to the event was full of people wearing white t-shirts and excitement for the day ahead. It was a hot Sunday morning when the buses started to arrive, attendees were buying packets of colour to throw throughout the day, and there was also food and drink stands, and plenty of water to keep everyone hydrated.
The music varied from techno to pop, including Greek, English and American artists. Each song played to keep the spirits and energy at a high, and a DJ/host who kept the crowd entertained. As the hours went by more people arrived and more colour was thrown, everyone was covered head to toe in a beautiful array of colours. At the centre of the main area the air was filled with powder and became difficult to breath but that was all part of the fun.
The colour festival is linked to the Holi festival (although this festival holds a disclaimer that there is no religious connection) that originated in India and Nepal. It is an ancient spring festival celebrated at the end of Winter for the change of season. It is thought to be a time to celebrate the finish of winter and turn to spring with the enjoyment of new colours for the year ahead. Which is why in recent colour festivals powder of varies colours are thrown to signify the brightness and change, and the party atmosphere brings joy and happiness to resemble the liveliness of spring. It is also believed to help social environments, where people can relax and enjoy themselves without restriction or pressure normally associated with race, gender, age and status.
Its origins are based strongly on Indian mythology. The Hindu story of Prahlada is extremely important in relation to the Holi festival. Prahlada’s family punished him for his religious beliefs (worshipping Vishnu, a Hindu God) by making him sit in the middle of a bonfire – Holika Dahan. However, Prahlada, a prince, was unharmed as Vishnu was said to have protected him from the burning flames. Which was to symbolise good over evil, and once the bonfire had cooled down many people applied the ashes to their foreheads. Over time this became coloured powder but the belief that Vishnu will protect them from evil continues
Volunteers from the United Societies of Balkans (USB) were responsible for clearing and preparing the area for the colour festival the day before, along with a group of other volunteers and organisers. And all our hard work was visible on the day of the actual festival, a day we will never forget!
Written by Georgina Smith
Information found by Mustafa Emre Güneş