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Holi in Costa Rica

Holi in Costa Rica (Bringing Together Indian and Tico Culture)

Indian expat Pubali Kanjilal celebrates the festival of Holi in Costa Rica, organized every March by the Costa Rica India Association as a fun cross-cultural event. 

I was filming the flash mob on my phone when the DJ invited all the guests to join the dance floor. Within a few seconds, I saw a sea of people flowing in, grooving to the beats of desi music.

In that moment, I realized Holi in Costa Rica is not just a celebration of an Indian festival, but a congregation of people from around the world to share moments of joy.

What is Holi?

Holi is an Indian festival celebrated each March. Since March marks the end of winter and the start of spring, we call Holi the Spring Festival in India.

On the day of Holi, the main celebration involves playing with colors. In the morning, groups of people gather and put color powders and color waters on each other. It’s a free-spirited celebration where putting colors on strangers does not infringe personal boundaries. This is why we also call Holi the Festival of Colors.

Like most other Indian festivals, the Holi celebration entails eating delicious food and celebrating quality time with friends and family.

The significance of the Holi festival has inherent connections to Hindu mythology. There are legends of different gods and goddesses, about Radha and Krishna, about Kama and Rati, about Vishnu and the demon king Hiranyakashipu. Each of these tales highlight the triumph of good over evil and celebration of love.

These are relatable themes for all people across the globe so why not celebrate Holi in Costa Rica?

Holi in Costa Rica

Costa Rica doesn’t experience winter and spring. It’s a tropical country with two seasons, rainy and dry. During the months of February and March, the middle of dry (or “summer”, as we call it here) season, the green canopies of trees start wearing shades of pastel. Red, yellow, orange and pink flowers blossom.

So, celebrating Holi in Costa Rica in March becomes a true celebration of the “spring” bloom and adheres to the theme of color.

Holi has become an annual event in Costa Rica in recent years, although 2020 and 2021 had virtual rather than live events due to the pandemic. In 2022, live Holi celebrations returned, with over 200 attendees joining the fun.

The 2023 Holi event in Costa Rica received some 400-odd attendees, not only Indians and Ticos, but also people from other countries living in Costa Rica.

The event took place earlier this month, on March 4, at the St. Jude School in Santa Ana, west of San José. It started at 11:00am and continued until 4:00pm.

Each attendee received a pack of color powder and a bottle of drinking water. Then began the Holi play, the play of colors! In almost no time, my face and arms turned into a canvas of color riot. Covered in green, blue and pink powdered colors, I went around the area to check out various activities and meet people!

It was a joyful day when we all, adults and kids alike, danced, played games, played with colors, and gorged on delicious Indian food.

Who organizes the Holi event in Costa Rica?

The event was organized by the Costa Rica India Association (CRIA). CRIA is a non-profit organization, bringing together Indian and Costa Rican culture. They organize Holi in Costa Rica and other similar events during the course of the year. These events are open for all and have ticketed entries.

In theory, Holi in Costa Rica is the celebration of an Indian festival. But when you become part of the celebration, you realize it’s much more than just a festival. It has a deeper impact on building long-term cultural connections between nations.

Although Holi is a Hindu festival, the celebrations in Costa Rica see people from all religions. Everyone is equally absorbed in sharing the happiness that the festival brings.

Fun, food, and more fun Indian/Costa Rican style

This year, the Holi event kicked off with two Bollywood dance presentations by Costa Rican dancers from the Academia Ave Shanti, a Costa Rican dance academy specializing in Indian dance forms. Later, on the dance floor, both Latin and Indian music had people up and moving.

There was also a dedicated Holi Bazaar where different local Costa Rican businesses had set up stalls for selling their products.

When it was time to eat, my husband and I each got a plate of chicken butter masala with rice, accompanied by cups of refreshing Mango Panna. We ate picnic-style, together with friends, on the ground under the shade of a tree.

Can it get more Tico than this? Make a picnic anywhere, out of anything!

To me, celebrating Holi in Costa Rica is being part of the process of cultural amalgamation. After all, isn’t that what we aspire for when we choose to live thousands of miles away from our home countries?

Originally from Kolkata, India, Pubali Kanjilal has been living in Costa Rica since 2018. She enjoys exploring new destinations and embracing new cultures, which she writes about on her Paradise Catchers travel blog.

Pubali Kanjilal

Pubali Kanjilal

Originally from Kolkata, India, Pubali Kanjilal has been living in Costa Rica since 2018, traveling across Latin America and the Caribbean with her husband whenever they get the chance. She enjoys exploring new destinations and embracing new cultures. Pubali and her husband share their best travel tips and recommendations on their travel blog, Paradise Catchers.