After Hudson County’s winter of discontent, almost everyone is welcoming spring, with just a sigh of relief or a little salute to that stalwart crocus pushing up from the earth.
Secaucus is doing it with a Festival of Colors.
The festival will be hosted by the Indian Caucus of Secaucus, which was formed eight months ago. It will take place on Sunday, March 20 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the old Recreation Center on Center Avenue. It is free.
Rajesh Nagpal, founder and president of the organization, moved to Secaucus from Jersey City 10 years ago and works at USPS.
He said that there are more than 700 Indian families living in Secaucus.
“We want to let people know that these are the festivals that we do back in India.” – Rajesh Nagpal
The organization annually presents a roster of traditional Indian festivals in Secaucus. Holi, or the Festival of Color, takes place in March. The celebration of India’s independence from British rule takes place in August. This year will mark the 64th anniversary of independence. Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, takes place in November. All festivals are free.
Nagpal said the group expects about 100 people to attend the Festival of Color, which marks and welcomes the coming of spring.
Participants will sing holy songs, and the ritual that gives the festival its name involves applying a dry powder from a pouch of colors to the skin.
Indian snacks will be available in abundance. They include bhajia, a sweet fried ball made from gram flour, and finger food for the kids.
“We follow the traditions of our forefathers,” Nagpal said.
It’s also a tradition at Indian festivals not to serve liquor. Instead, they will offer Coke, water, and a special Indian drink called thandai, which is made from crushed cashews, almonds, milk and “a few other ingredients,” according to Nagpal.
The event “will be a meet and greet for friends who want to apply color and it will be over by 2,” he said.
The Festival for Indian Independence will be celebrated on Aug. 15 this year. It will feature a cultural program with kids singing and dancing on stage.
“It was a big hit last year,” Nagpal said. “Over 600 people came and enjoyed themselves and the entertainment.”
The Independence Day event is held in Buchmuller Park, but if it rains, the festivities move to the high school.
The food is catered by a number of Indian restaurants, including Tadka at 1297 Paterson Plank Road and Mausam at 1150 Patterson Plank Road in Secaucus.
Food offerings include shish kabab and chicken on the grill.
Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is held in either October or November, wherever it falls on the Indian religious calendar.
Traditionally, revelers light candles and firecrackers, although in Secaucus there will be no firecrackers.
If the weather is good, it will be held in Buchmuller Park. If not, it will move inside to the high school.
“Traditionally we keep the house lights on for three days,” Nagpal said. “They symbolize good triumphing over evil.”
Food, drink, and entertainment also play a part in the Festival of Lights. “Vendors show merchandise,” Nagpal said.
The goods include bangles, necklaces, and a traditional Indian outfit, known as salwar kameez, which are pants and an embroidered shirt for women.
Nagpal said that as many as 1,000 might attend the Festival of Lights.
“We’ve been getting a good response to the festivals from the people of Secaucus,” Nagpal said. A number of dignitaries will be on hand, including the mayor of Secaucus, the Town Council, the superintendent of schools, and a representative from the Indian consulate in New York. Nagpal said they even received a letter from Sen. Frank Lautenberg saying he was sorry he could not attend.
“The whole scenario is to promote Indian culture and let people see that this is how we celebrate back in India,” he said.
Nagpal said that after so many people in town had experienced and enjoyed the festivals, the Indian Caucus of Secaucus was asked to march with their own banner in the Memorial Day parade.
“We want people to know what they are missing if they don’t come out to these functions,” Nagpal said.
Kate Rounds can be reached at email@example.com..