Spiritual background Of Holi
Spiritual background - Holi pyre was lit to signify a pastime of Prahlada maharaj and his aunt, Holika. Hiranyakashipu was very anxious to kill Prahlada Maharaj because of his refusal to accept him as Supreme and insistence that Visnu is supreme. At the time, all the attempts being made were backfiring (like falling from hilltop, crushing by elephant), then his sister Holika came up with the idea that she has got a boon that she cannot be burned by fire. Therefore, she will sit with Prahlad on her lap on a pyre and that should be lit. Prahlad will be burned and she will be saved because of the boon. Hiranyakashipu agreed to the plan and it was executed. The mercy of the lord was such that Holika was burned and Prahlada was saved. That is why when the pyre is made ready even today, there is a sugarcane which is kept in the middle and removed immediately on lighting the pyre at night. A lot of people will go and do some puja before the pyre is lit (called thandi holi ki puja). That is to pray to the lord to save Prahlada maharaj from the calamity of being burned. They are putting tika on the sugarcane if you notice.
Holi with colours was played by the lord - the holi of Vrindavan and Barsana is famous. Therefore its ok if a devotee wants to play with colours with the lord. What a lot of people do (including me) is to play with the lord with kesar and gulabjal, then with flowers. I basically do pushpa abhishek once a year - on Holi. In that coloured condition, I offer atleast thandai, alongwith other bhoga if possible and then clean up the place, deities and altar. In our house, we start with playing holi with the lord, then if desired, it can be played among ourselves.