Hindu festivals are communal celebrations through which an aspect of the universal Truth is brought to life. The rituals of the festival are intended to strengthen bonds between and within families and communities.
Holi is celebrated on the Purnima (Full Moon Day) of Hindu Lunar Calendar Month of Phalgun over 2 days.
On the first night an effigy of Holika is burnt to represent the victory of good over evil. Neem leaves are burned to represent removal of bitterness of life, leaving the sweetened medicinal value. It is also a time for cleansing and burning all negativities and trash of the winter in a bonfire.
On the second day spring is heralded colorfully.
The puranic story tells us, Hiranyakashipu, father of Prahlad, along with Holika conspired to kill him. But Holika was burned to death and her righteous nephew, Prahlad came out unscathed. His intense devotion and belief in God's protection kept him safe. The story highlights the ineffectiveness of human power over others in the face of God's power for a devotee who has fully surrendered (somewhat similar, in essence, to David and Goliath). It also shows that a child is not necessarily an inheritor of either the vices or the virtues of his/her parent. Each can choose their destiny.
The next day is the festival of colors in which friends, family and the community come together. Traditionally turmeric and natural colors were used to put colors. Holi is played with everyone, regardless of any status, hierarchy in social or professional standing or gender. The colors equalize all. No one is higher or lower.
And, of course, no festival is complete without feasting which happens throughout the day.
In the spirit of equality, some (like us at HASC) , participate in community service. UtsavSeva (Festivals of Seva) is community service which augments the spirit of Hindu festivals through seva events organized during this time and connecting them with the cultural heritage. HASC's theme for March is KalyanSeva which celebrates service to all. Details of "How to" of the seva are explained in this YouTube video.