Leera Patel, of Galloway Township, and her daughter Veera smear red powder on their faces in celebration on Tuesday night.

Anjalee Khemlani

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP -- The chilly evening Tuesday was a far cry from the typical celebration setting for Holi -- the Hindu festival marking the beginning of spring -- but that didn't stop some area Indians from "playing."

The celebration in India welcomes the new season with a splash of color -- literally. Colored water and powders are thrown at friends or smeared across the face of passers-by.

Children run down the streets in India with fists full of powder, ready to "play" with whoemver is in their path.

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The quiet gathering of about 100 at the Vaikunth Jain Temple here exuded a dampened hope of a warm welcome to spring.

"It's not the same (without warm weather)," said Leera Patel, of Galloway.

Rather than run around the streets in their neighborhoods to play, the few that "played Holi" Tuesday brought a handful of colored powder and walked up to friends and family to apply the mark of spring.

The handful of red smears on a few people's cheeks was the extent of playing.

Most shied away, complaining of not being dressed to play -- wrapped in jackets, coats and sweatshirts -- and standing around the fire.

Holi also is celebrated by fasting. Only cold snacks are allowed, said Disha Modi, of Cape May Court House.

At the end of the day, a prayer service ends the fast and families get together for a big meal.

"A whole neighborhood gathers" to end the fast around a fire, making offerings to break the fast, Modi said.

Celebrations here may not be as grand as in India, but the purpose of observing the holy day and keeping up traditions is met, she said.

Patel said she has not had a warm Holi in the five years since she moved here.

She recalls Holi being a fun day for playing with colors -- something her 2-year-old daughter, Veera, will never experience in full, Patel said.

"But she will learn about it," Patel said. And teaching Veera about the traditional celebration will keep it alive for future generations.


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