So, I know not everyone is familiar with this. Karwa Chauth is a Hindu festival that all married women participate in. It's more popular in North India, but now, it's gaining popularity in the South too! This festival is very well played in the Hindi movies, and is a big attraction for everyone. This happens once a year, always at the begining of fall, though the date changes each time because it's based on the Hindu calendar that is based on moon positions and so forth.
The main objective of this is for married women to pray for the well being and long life of their husbands. For this, they keep a day long fast. They stay without food or water until they perform rites upon moonrise. The festivities begin the night before. Traditionally, all the women in the family would gather around and decorate their hands (and sometimes, feet) with Henna. They wake up early morning at 4AM, take a bath, and eat 'Sargi', which is basically noodles with milk. They can also eat whatever else they'd like at that time, along with water. Then, the fast begins.
Sometimes, there are variations to this fast. In some families, the women are allowed to have water, tea etc. to drink, but nothing to eat. In another variation, the unmarried girls are allowed to participate, but they break the fast at the first sight of a star, which is always before moonrise! I have also seen some very dedicated husbands keep the fast for their wives! I'm always very impressed with that. The fast is not an easy one to keep!
In the evening, before the sun sets, the women dress up in the prettiest clothes. This is the best part, and why this festival is so popular that even the girls want to participate. Many women dress up in either their wedding dress (if they can fit into it! LOL), or beautiful saris or salwar kameez that they would otherwise wear to weddings. They do full makeup, just like their wedding day, and get ready for the Puja(rites). The puja can be done in the Temple, or in someone's house. They chant the Karwa Chauth song, and listen to the traditional story of Tara Rani. They also worship the Goddess Parwati. The women sit around in a circle and pass their puja plates (that contain rice, fruit, etc.) around to each other. This passing along of plates is done 7 times. It's a lucky number!
After this, the wait for the moon begins. At moonrise, the women first offer food and water to the moon, then their husbands offer them the first sip of water and first bite of food for the day! They can eat anything after this.
If you'd like to read more, you can go to KarwaChauth.com
Living in the US, I can't do everything the way it's done back home! Most of the times, I have to forego the Henna part. Mainly because I'm lazy enough to do it myself. It takes a long time to prepare for it, plus, with a toddler running around, it's not practical at the moment. Last year, though, I was in India at the time. My SIL and I kept the fast together and did everything. It was her first time keeping this fast. A memorable time, for sure.
The year before last, I didn't keep Teej -- similar festival but only certain groups have this one, my in-laws celebrate this -- as I was preggers with Mehul, and KarwaChauth because I was nursing at the time. My MIL gave me an out both times. So, it's not a hard and fast rule that you MUST do this, exceptions are made in case of illness and such.
Well, you're all up to speed with this now, so if someone asks you, you can tell. LOL. Honestly, I like learning about other cultures and I *love* sharing things about my culture.