I remember Holi being celebrated on the streets of Mysore, where the kids from the neighborhood would go begging from house to house collecting discarded things that can be burnt like mats, brooms, firewood, and so on.
In the evening these things would be used to build a bonfire. After offering prayers the bonfire will be lit and the prasada/offering will be distributed among the devotees.
North Indians circle the bonfire while it is burning chanting prayers. Papad, Groundnuts or Chik Pea pods will be roasted in the fire and then consumed as prasad. The ashes are also taken home and is applied on the forehead.
This is known as “Kamadahana” (burning god of love “Kama”). This is practiced because Kama disturbed the penance of Lord Shiva and in a rage when Lord Shiva opened his third eye “Kama” was burnt to ashes. Kama means desire, which is one of the main ingredients for dissatisfaction and sadness in life, so the significance of burning Kama is to bring back contentment and happiness back into your life.
This festival of colors falls in the month of Phalgun (Spring season/March) and it is a very popular festival in North India and is celebrated for a week. This year (2013) it is on 26th and 27th of March. The bonfire is lit a day previous to full moon.
People come out on the streets and greet each other by splashing colors on one another. Holi revelers screaming “Holi Hai!” (it is Holi!), rents the air lifting the spirits. The true spirit in the form of “Bhang” a desi alcohol drink prepared using the leaves and flower of Cannabis sativa plant, which is added to a milk based drink called Thandai is also consumed by the people to add that extra zest to their celebrations.
Delicious sweets like Gujjia and Jalebi are prepared as part of the celebrations. Chatpati Chaats are also prepared and served along with thirst quenchers. This celebration attracts a lot of foreign tourists to India to experience the joy of festival of colors. Bright pichkaris/water guns, colors of every hue and sweets adorn shops tempting prospective customers to purchase holi items from their shops.