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  • Writer's pictureHANNA BABEK

Holi celebration canceled due to low turnout

The Office of International Student Services’s annual Holi celebration was meant to take place on April 7 in the Arnow Quad, but was called off after only three students attended. Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, is a traditional Hindu holiday marking the arrival of spring. It is typically celebrated with people throwing brightly colored powder at one another.


Several students gathered in Arnow Quad for the 2016 Holi celebration to celebrate spring. Photo courtesy of Maria Adkins

Holi has been an annual campus tradition for several years. Assistant Director of Student Activities and Orientation, Sam Buote-Wegeler, said when he attended the event as a student in 2016, an estimated 20-30 students participated. The event was similar to how it is celebrated now, but it took place during the Spring Carnival rather than as a standalone celebration.


The Holi celebration, like many campus traditions, was disrupted by COVID. Although the event drew large crowds of students prior to the pandemic, Director of International Student Services and Study Abroad Maria Adkins says the event has struggled to regain popularity since.


“I tried to bring it back in 2021, but it didn’t really take off the ground. Then last year, I tried again, and only four students came,” she said.


This year, the Office of International Student Services led the event and collaborated with Campus Activities Board (CAB), who purchased t-shirts for students to throw the colored powder at, as well as promoted the event on their Instagram.


Students throw colored powder at each other in the Arnow Quad to celebrate the arrival of spring during the Holi event in 2016. Photo courtesy of Maria Adkins

Adkins hoped the event would gain more attention than it had in previous years because of the online promotions and flyers hung around campus, but the outcome was not what she anticipated.


CAB Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion and communications major, Jacob Lustig, arrived at the event and met with Adkins to give her the shirts CAB provided. Lustig said, “Together, we made the decision to cancel the event, due to the number that we had in attendance not being enough to fully bring the celebration to life. We hope that in the following years there will be better attendance and possibly a new location and timing for the event.”


Adkins believes the lack of participation is the result of multiple factors, including the fact the event took place on Good Friday, when many students had gone home to celebrate Easter, and that most of the student body had not experienced a Holi celebration before COVID.


“Current students are not aware about what this event was like in the past and that it used to be a big deal with 50 students or more attending,” Adkins says.


Boute-Wegeler agrees that the event is not as well known as it once was, saying, “I have been working at Lasell since 2021, and in my opinion, so few people have attended the Holi celebration in the last 2 years because it’s challenging to host as a stand-alone event and there is a lack of knowledge across campus in terms of what the Holi celebration is and represents.”


Adkins says that although no official actions have been taken, she is considering speaking with members of the Intercultural Center and Commuter Cottage (IC3) to create a plan for future Holi celebrations.


“I was thinking of talking to staff and students in the IC3 to see if they’d want to co-sponsor this event and make it more of an Indian celebration with Indian food, henna, and end with a Holi celebration. I have not talked to them yet, so this was just an idea. I’d hate to see Lasell lose this tradition.”


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