Laughter will always be the best relief from stress, and this time of the year there’s some giddiness in the spring air, competing with the serious matters of finals, final projects, and impending graduation.
Last Friday, students paused to enjoy a few minutes of high-spirited fun on the academic quad, tossing more than 50 pounds of brightly-colored chalk dust into the air and rubbing it onto each other’s faces and clothing. The playful spectacle was part of Denison’s second annual Holi celebration, an Indian tradition marking the arrival of spring.
As Bollywood music blared in the background, students turned different shades of red, yellow, purple, green, orange, and blue before munching on traditional Indian snacks like samosas, aloo parathas (Indian bread stuffed with potatoes), and a dessert called gulab jamun (cottage cheese balls fried and dipped in sugar syrup) from the “Taste Of India” restaurant in Heath.
The most popular item was the yogurt-based drink, Mango Lassi, an enjoyable substitute for the intoxicating drink shared at traditional Holi celebrations.
“The unique aspect of Holi is that it’s a festival meant to break down societal barriers,” said Rohin Daswani ’15, an economics and computer science double major from Calcutta, India. “Holding someone you do not know and rubbing color on their face is something that normally would be considered very inappropriate, but during Holi it isn’t.” Judging by the participating students, it’s actually quite fun.
Holi was sponsored by Denison’s International Student Association and combined with Aestavalia, Denison’s annual spring celebration, to welcome the new season.
Aestavalia’s last-minute move inside Slayter due to the wet weather did not deter the crowds of students, community members, faculty, and families from attending the free cookout.
The event, co-sponsored by UPC and CLIC, also included a baby kangaroo, henna, caricatures, a tie-dye station, chalk paint picture frames, photo booths, and a comedic performance by Judah Friedlander (the guy with the hats and funky T-shirts on 30 Rock), among other attractions.
“Aestavalia is a relief from the work and stress of classes, especially before finals,” said Abigail Chua ’15, the co-director of Special Events in UPC and a math major from Vancouver, Canada.
While the combined celebration of spring brought relaxation, free Aestavalia swag, and pet and craft therapies to campus, it also reminded Daswani of his childhood in India.
“I remember being grabbed by my friends and tons of color put on my face. In India the color we used didn’t wash off that easily, so after Holi my hands and face remained multi-colored for days and maybe weeks until it finally faded. Holi is a very fun time with family and friends and warm weather. That is what it means to me,” he said.