BERNARDS TWP. – An enthusiastic crowd of nearly 300 community members of all faiths enjoyed traditional Indian food, music and dancing Thursday March 9 at the second annual Holi Festival at the Somerset Hills YMCA in Basking Ridge.
Holi is a traditional Hindu festival to celebrate the beginning of spring with its abundant colors and vibrant life. Using colorful Gulal powder and water, participants painted themselves with the colors of the season and learned more about this Hindu tradition.
The YMCA is a charitable organization made up of diverse people working side-by-side to strengthen community. The Holi Festival is one of several events organized by the Y’s cultural engagement committee, a volunteer-led group created to celebrate the customs and traditions of different cultures in this diverse community.
“We are proud to host such a festive celebration at our Y,” said Marc Koch, Somerset Hills YMCA executive director. “The event was a great success thanks in large part to our cultural engagement committee volunteers, who organize initiatives that celebrate the diverse cultures of our community.”
The committee is always looking for ways to engage new members who can bring their own unique knowledge about their cultures to the r Y and the community at large, according to Greg Toombs of Basking Ridge, committee co-chair.
“Our Holi celebration brought a lot of Indian families from the community to our Y, many for the first time,” said Rachna Mathur of Mendham, co-chair of the committee. “These families proudly shared their culture with their neighbors of different faiths – each gaining a greater understanding for the other.”
“The Y is committed to increasing cultural engagement within our communities,” said David M. Carcieri, president and CEO of the Somerset County YMCA. “We believe that with a greater understanding and acceptance of our differences, we can grow into a stronger, more supportive community where individuals feel comfortable being themselves and have every opportunity to thrive.”
Basking Ridge resident Beckie Laubscher shared the sentiment of many attendees.
“It is important to me that my family knows and loves people of all cultures,” she said. “The more we know and understand each other, the more love there is to share.”
To join the Y’s cultural engagement committee, or to learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Somerset Hills YMCA, visit www.somersetcountyymca.org/volunteer.