Holi celebrations bring a splash of colour to Fanshawe students

Covered from head to toe in bright colourful powder, Fanshawe College students gathered to celebrate Holi, the Hindu festival of colours, on Wednesday. 

Holi is the Hindu festival of colours marking the start of Spring

girl paints boys face
Students at Fanshawe College's south campus celebrated Holi with throwing colourful powder and painting on Wednesday, March 8. (Michelle Both/CBC)

Covered from head to toe in bright, colourful powder, Fanshawe College students gathered to celebrate Holi, the Hindu festival of colours, on Wednesday. 

The festivities were a taste of home for international students from India and Nepal — for some, the first-time celebrating in a Canadian winter. Holi signifies the victory of good over evil and is celebrated in India, Nepal and around the world.

Bright colours, dancing, painting and tasty South Asian desserts were all part of the celebration at Fanshawe's South Campus.

students dancing in white shirts covered in colourful powder
Students covered in colourful powder dance at a Holi celebration on Fanshawe College's south campus. (Michelle Both/CBC)

"It's full of colours," said Sid Singh, a first-year business management student whose been in Canada for six months. "We need to have colours in Holi because, without colours, Holi is incomplete."

The celebration is so students can feel a sense of belonging, Singh said, who is an event ambassador for the Fanshawe Student Union.

"It makes us feel like we are back at home, so it's good to see that Canadians are involved with us, and they care about our festivals," he said. 

person covered with orange and green powder on their face gives the peace sign
Sid Singh, event ambassador for the Fanshawe Student Union, says the Holi celebration helps students feel a sense of belonging. (Michelle Both/CBC)

In India, part of celebrating is burning wood the night before to symbolize burning out the evil, he said. "It's all about letting out the evil and having fun, that's it — and also sweets."

A small 'getaway' from studies and work

For international students, the celebration was also a break from the grind of studies and work.

"One thing about international students is that they are always busy. So we got classes, we got part-time jobs. We don't get time to hang out with either with each other... but whenever we conduct an event like this, all the students come together," he said. 

"It's like a small getaway for us where we can actually relax for a bit. We can take a break from our studies, from our work, and we are just enjoying this moment."

a woman puts colour on anothers face with her hand
Jahanvi Shah smears colourful powder onto a friend at the Holi celebration. She says during Holi they play with colours, share joys and blessings, and eat lots of sweets. (Michelle Both/CBC)

Singh said it means a lot to him and other students that the school and student union are hosting the event. "It makes us feel really good," he said. 

For student Jahanvi Shah, the celebration was a way to enjoy, replenish and make memories to take home. 

"I think it's wonderful to be here today," said Shah, covered in orange and green powder. "We try to play with colours, share joys, share blessings and have a lot of sweets."

a girl does henna on another's wrist
Ashka Vaghela illustrates a design on the wrist of Sudikshya Timalsina, a health care administration management student at Fanshawe College. (Michelle Both/CBC)

Painting a large paper mural, sketching, and henna were also part of the celebration. 

Sudikshya Timalsina, a health care administration management student from Nepal, had her wrist decorated with henna by Ashka Vaghela. "I love her designs," she said, adding the art is called mehndi in India and Nepal. 

Timalsina is curious about how Holi is celebrated in Canada and was excited to attend the event. 

"I'm very new to Canada, and I wanted to know how everything's celebrated here," she said. "I'm always fond of colours... Holi is basically the colours which add to our lives."

woman wearing black shirts serves desserts
Anupriya Shaji serves South Asian treats including gulab jamun, rasgulla and chocolate barfi to students for Holi. Her favourite is gulab jamun, she says. (Michelle Both/CBC)

A way to learn about culture

When the south campus opened in 2019, the majority of students were from India, said Crystal Boyd, international student transitions and engagement facilitator at Fanshawe.

"It's still a strong number of students from that region," said Boyd, adding students now come from all over the world at the school. The Holi celebration is open to all students and "a great way for them to kind of learn about that traditional culture," she said. 

Fanshawe's south campus offers a range of business, information technology and management programs. The Holi event was organized by the Fanshawe Student Union and Fanshawe's international office. 


Michelle Both is a reporter for CBC London. She holds a master's degree in journalism and communication from Western University. You can reach her at or on Twitter at @michellelboth.