Soon after breaking the fast after the last tone of azan, everyone looks at the sky with enthusiasm while some turn on the TV for any breaking news. Some people make their way with firecrackers and fanush to the rooftop with anticipation to see the silver crescent. The little ones jump and shout pointing towards the sky. The entire neighbourhood cheers and welcomes the long-awaited Eid-ul-Fitr after a month long period of fasting and praying. As soon as the moon-sighting committee spots the moon and Eid is declared on the next day, a sense of festival begins almost immediately that lasts all night. The whole city is adorned with brightly decorated, colourful lights and flowers. Clamour of music starts almost in every mall from the traditional Eid songs to Bollywood songs. The celebration and excitement of chand raat starts with a feeling of togetherness among people of all ages, races, genders and classes.
As Eid advances, everyone gets busier with work. Doing nine to five during Ramadan and staying back late at the work to meet deadlines is pretty common for the bankers in our country. While others enjoy at least a week of Eid vacation, they only get a three-day holiday. Since their holiday starts with the beginning of chand raat, the night is very special to them. They can hardly manage time to go shopping for Eid, so this is the perfect opportunity to go get that last minute shopping done. From shopping to preparing for Eid, from family gathering to roaming around with friends, from applying mehendi to last minute beauty treatments, all need to be ticked off on their to-do list. While men are seen going to the gents salons and grocery stores to buy shemai and other necessary items including soft drinks, cashew nuts, etc, women are found in the malls buying dresses, jewellery items and accessories. From the small shops of Chandni Chawk to big malls like Bashundhara City, people are seen bargaining to get their desired products. “I usually feel very lazy going out on holidays but since chand raat comes only once a year, I can’t help but find myself going shopping, mehendi tattooing, roaming around with friends, tasting street foods and so on. As I was born and brought up in Old Dhaka, I really miss how the streets used to get crowed with people and the colours of festivity spreading through the narrow lanes while the sound of firecrackers added life to the celebration of chand raat," says Shoma, a banker.
While the upper class of the society enjoys chand raat to the fullest, is the celebration same for the middle and lower-middle classes? Just like bankers, they also get busier as Eid draws near. The weavers get very busy during this time of the year. They have to work faster than ever before; there is hardly any time to waste. Adding the last finishing touch to the fabrics and sending the products to the customers before chand raat is their only objective. All their blood, sweat and tears for creating something they’re absolutely passionate about—handloom saris and dresses are exceptionally beautiful. The detailed work of each thread adds special significance to different types of saris, such as, jamdani, tant, muslin, cotton, etc. After long, tiring, toiling days, the weavers are those who stay happy with the little amount of money they earn. They are satisfied with their income because only the happy faces of the customers matter most to them. They do earn extra in Ramadan and with that extra amount of money they share their happiness. They buy shemai and other necessary groceries before Eid. They visit nearby melas on chand raat. Sometimes, the male weavers would make a sari for their beloved and give it to them along with cosmetic items and accessories such as bangles, earrings and bindi, that they buy from the melas on chand raat. They also buy clothes and toys for their children from the fair.
Eid is no less special to the elderly. The people living in old homes may not get to go outside to see and enjoy the bustling colourful celebration of chand raat, but they do manage to bring the festivity where they live. While the men are busy decorating the place with lights and balloons, the women help each other with cooking special dishes for Eid and making delicious desserts. They also clean and decorate their rooms. They chat away the night talking about and reliving childhood chand raat memories, and deep down inside, they eagerly wait for their sons and daughters to come and visit them. Karim Mia, 68, has been living in an old home for the last few years. He says, “I used to light up firecrackers and tarabaji when I was a kid. Once I burnt my finger while doing that but it still didn’t affect my 'chand raat' celebration. Haha.” Amina Begum adds, ‘’Firecrackers was indeed an important signature of chand raat celebration. The whole festival would be incomplete without them. We would also collect new clothes from the tailor and hide them, so that no one else gets to see them before Eid morning. It was almost customary. We would tear henna leaves from trees and grind them to make a paste, that we would later apply on our palm.”
Although chand raat may hold different meanings to different people, the enthusiasm to celebrate it is almost the same among people from all walks of life.