Many cities in Korea pick a descriptive word to describe itself. For example: Charm Jinju, Human City Suwon, Beautiful Gyeongju, etc. When I first moved to Pohang in October 2011, it was known as Powerful Pohang. Mid-way through my first stay, however, the City Council changed that moniker to something which reflected their new vision for the city: Global Pohang.
Over the last couple years, the City Council has worked to make that vision a reality, going above and beyond any expectation to make foreigners feel welcome. They’ve offered free Korean classes (I’m just beginning the Intermediate course!), assistance getting a Korean driver’s license, and sponsored events and festivals. This weekend was yet another example of the city supporting its foreign community; we had our very own Holi Festival on Bukbu Beach!
Holi is a Hindu holiday which coincides with the full moon during the month of Phalgun in the Hindu calendar. It’s a festival celebrating color and love, spring and healing, forgiving and forgetting. Pair those universally likable concepts with fistfuls of colored powder and you end up with a festival loved the world over. This year, for the first time, Pohang participated on a mass scale.
Organized by some Indian members of the Pohang community, our Holi festival started with traditional performances from not only Indian performers, but Russian and Korean ones as well.
After the performances, we listened to a brief “How to Holi” talk, the speaker likening ‘explaining how to Holi’ to explaining how to use chopsticks: you just have to demonstrate it. That said, he grabbed a handful of colored powder and rubbed it on a volunteer’s face, exclaiming, “Happy Holi!” as he did so. Without further adieu, the color bags came out, the music came on, and people eagerly went about getting happily messy.
For a while, nothing seemed to matter. Young and old, teachers and students, factory workers and researchers from all different countries mingled together. Smiles and laughter were everywhere, and strangers found reason to approach each other, swap some powder, and wish the other, “Happy Holi!”
It was a wonderful, harmonious afternoon, one of the most carefree I’ve had in a long time. I feel so lucky to live in a ‘global’ city with such an active and sharing community. Thanks everyone involved with setting up Pohang’s Holi festival and sharing a little bit of Hindu culture with the rest of us. It’s a memory I won’t ever forget!
How about you? Have you celebrated Holi somewhere in the world? Tell me about your experience below 🙂