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NWO celebrates... Holi

March (2022) has been sunny and a growing number of people feel that spring is almost here! And in line with that theme, NWO celebrated the Hindu festival Holi last month. Holi is an ancient festival, often referred to as a spring festival, amongst other things. We asked Varsha Kapoerchan (Science/NWA) what Holi is and what it means for her.

Holi is sometimes called the spring festival. But what is it exactly?
‘Holi is actually different things: it is a spring festival, but also a New Year’s festival and a festival in which the victory of good over evil is celebrated. Holi is best known, of course, for the throwing of coloured powders. The fact that everybody is covered with coloured powders symbolises that on this day, everybody is equal, irrespective of their religion or descent. But Holi is actually a religious feast in which various activities take place (just like Diwali, by the way!). The most important of these is ‘Holika Dahan’, the evening before Holi. On that evening, a bonfire is lit. The bonfire symbolises Holika, evil, and setting it alight symbolises the victory of good over evil.’

What does the feast mean for you personally, and how do you celebrate it?
‘Nowadays, I do not really celebrate Holi anymore. However, as it is a religious festival, the day of Holi is a moment of personal reflection for me. In the past, Holi started during the day at school (I attended a state school in the Schilderswijk district of The Hague), where the Hindustani children in the class covered each other with coloured powders, and the rest of the class happily joined in. Later in the day, the entire family would gather at my grandparent’s home.

We wished each other a “Shubh Holi” (happy Holi), enjoyed delicacies and sprinkled each other with perfume – my grandmother liked to keep the house clean, and so we were not allowed to throw powders inside :-)’

What is your favourite memory of celebrating Holi?
‘Being together with the entire family and playing with my nieces and nephews.’

Which message from the festival would you like to give to your NWO colleagues?
‘That, in the end, everybody is the same irrespective of where you come from or your social class.’

More information
Would you like to know more about the story behind Holika? Then click here.

Text: Seray Ünsal

Diversity and inclusion at NWO and NWO-I

This new section will be published on both the NWO intranet Joost and the newsletter Inside NWO-I. This is an initiative from the NWO-D and NWO-I wide Diversity team. We aim to realise working in an inclusive organisation with inclusive procedures. We believe that we can achieve our strategic ambitions as NWO if we also seek to be a diverse organisation with an inclusive culture. Diversity brings us creativity, innovation, and renewal. In addition to this, we are convinced that we will have more societal impact as NWO if our organisation reflects the society we are part of. This means that as an employer, NWO needs to ensure that everybody is welcome, can be themselves and can perform at their best. This Diversity and Inclusion calendar contributes to that. You can read more about diversity and inclusion on the NWO website. And in the January edition of Inside NWO-I, we published the article “Striving for an organisation where everybody can be themselves” about diversity within NWO and NWO-I.

Section NWO celebrates … based on an annual calendar

We base the section “NWO celebrates…” on an annual calendar that we have produced ourselves. You can find our calendar here. An annual calendar does not necessarily have to start on 1 January. Various Roman emperors and several popes changed the dates making a year start on 1 March, or 25 March or perhaps 1 January? That set us thinking: which dates do we still take for granted, and how do others view that? Time for a calendar that includes all special days: days that we as NWO employees can celebrate together. We hope this calendar will help us to get to know each other better, increase our knowledge about other festive days, and give us opportunities to open up the conversation and discover which (festive) days are special for us and why.

See the calendar 'NWO celebrates' and read the other articles from the section 'NWO celebrates...'

Would you like to participate in this section?

Is your (festive) day missing from the calendar? Or would you like to say something in the section “NWO celebrates…” about one of the special days on this calendar? If that is the case, then please send an email to Nicole Verhoeven ( Then we will add your date to the calendar and contact you for a possible interview for this section.

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