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The information, activities, recipes and stories on this page have been reproduced from the OpenSezMe book Summer by Shirley West. This book is full of excellent resources for pre-school and is one of a set of four covering each of the seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. These books are available from Open Sez Me Books. We were so impressed we bought a complete set !
Holi is a famous and very popular Hindu spring festival in Northern India. It celebrates the arrival of spring flowers and when the main crops are almost ready for the spring harvest. The festival lasts anything from three to five days and is known as the festival of colour.

Holi usually begins with the lighting of bonfires which have been built by everyone. People light their household fires, and then the community fire is kindled by a brahim priest. The ripening of the first wheat and barley crop is celebrated by being offered to the fire, and the roasted barley is eaten. The ashes of the fires are marked on the forehead to bring good luck in the year ahead.

After the bonfires comes the throwing of colour. People throw coloured water and red powders over friends or anyone who passes by. It is a happy celebration, everybody dances and has great fun. Processions of floats carrying statues of the gods line the streets.

Holi is named after the goddess Holika. During the festival, people burn the image of Holika as a symbol that good has defeated evil. This is often followed by the burning of rubbish, to show that past wrongdoing is forgiven.

Suggested songs: Holi from Festivals (all the year) by Jean Gilbert, published by Oxford University Press.


A story to read

There was once a very cruel king called Hirnakashyah who had a son called Prahlad. Prahlad was very good and always prayed to the god Vishnu, which made his father very angry. The King tried very hard to make his son give up his belief in Vishnu.

So the King ordered his sister Holika to take Prahlad in her arms and for both of them to walk into the burning fire. The plan was that Prahlad would die and Holika would be saved because she was protected by the gods of flames. What the King did not know was that the gods' charm over Holika didn't work for one hour during the day. The hour chosen for lighting the fire just happened to be that very hour. When the flames leapt up, Holika died and Prahlad was saved by Vishnu.

Prahlad was so sorry for Holika that he promised to name a festival after her. So now we have the festival of Holi.



Mix the colours, stir the colours
What can be seen?
Mix in the yellow and stir in the blue
And all you can see is green

Mix the colours, stir the colours
Tell me what you think.
Mix in the red and stir in the white
And all you can see is pink.

Mix the colours, stir the colours
Oh what can you arrange.
Mix in the red and stir in the yellow
And all you can see is orange
By Shirley West

Holi is a celebration of colour. In tie-dyeing the children can have fun with different colours and shapes.



white fabric, a few pebbles or stick, string,a bowl, dye, water


1. Tie various knots with string around the fabric by using the pebbles, or twist it round a stick with string.

2. Put some dye in the water. Place the fabric in the bowl for about 5 minutes. Take out, rinse and then dry.

3. In order to make another colour, tie the knots in different places and repeat steps 1 and 2. If mixing colours, begin with the lightest.



paper, large sheet of paper, red and yellow paint, shiny red and yellow paper,twigs, sponge


1.Cut out flame shapes, and paint them red or yellow.

2. Cut the shiny paper into small pieces and glue them onto the flames. Sponge paint the large sheet of paper in bright red and yellow.

3. When this is dry, create a bonfire. Glue the twigs at the bottom and the flames above.


For bright, fiery pictures, exploding with colour, try first coating paper with icing sugar paste to make sugar pictures.


icing sugar, water, red, yellow and orange paint, paper


1. Mix the icing sugar and water together to a runny paint consistency. Paint the sugar icing quite thickly all over the paper for a good effect.

2. Dip a paint brush nto the paint and allow it to drip, or lightly shake it over the paper. The paint will disperse slowly into the sugar icing creating a fire effect.

Remember this activity can get quite sticky!

All Text and Images Copyright Shirley West and Open Sez Me Publications
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