Eve of Eid-al-Fitr: SAIO hosts first annual Chaand Raat celebration at the College with games, display of South Asian culture


Tuesday, April 9, the South Asian Interfaith Organization hosted a Chaand Raat celebration in the Crim Dell Meadow. Chaand Raat is a festival observed on the eve of Eid-al-Fitr, primarily by Muslims in South Asian countries. It is celebrated with games, spending time with loved ones and keeping an eye out for the new moon to signify the end of an auspicious Ramadan. 

SAIO co-founder and executive board member Manvi Nair ’24 described how the group wanted to host the event to continue to provide a safe space for students to observe their traditions and celebrate their cultural practices. 

“Chaand Raat was kind of like a culmination of a festival, mostly making Muslim students, who are also not necessarily of South Asian background, feel at home and find a way to celebrate Eid on campus, which is really hard for them. But also bringing a whole campus for that celebration,” Nair said. “Everyone can celebrate together and support each other.”

SAIO executive board members Nair, Alysha Waseem ’24 and Meeran Khan ’25 began planning for this event months in advance, starting in February. Nair explained that the team found organizing to be somewhat stressful, as it was hosting the festival for the first time. The three were also unsure when the actual date of Chaand Raat would be, as the day it falls on varies from year to year along with the lunar calendar, so they had to shift the event date from April 5 to April 9 during Spring Break.

“It definitely took a lot of time, and we were really overwhelmed because there were just three people,” Nair said. 

Despite this stress, SAIO hosted many activities and a variety of South Asian cultural items at the festival. The event had sports, henna stations, cotton candy, popcorn and the opportunity to purchase traditional South Asian jewelry. 

“Chaand Raat is mostly in South Asia, and it celebrates the night of Eid, and it’s kind of like a festival and carnival. So we really wanted to simulate the same feeling here,” Nair said. 

Nair further listed out the specific details of what the event offered, as well as how students at the College of William and Mary could find ways to celebrate South Asian heritage. 

“We had soccer, we had badminton, we had cornhole,” Nair said. “We had football, frisbee, jump ropes. We also had a popcorn machine, cotton candy. We were selling tiny stuffed animals. We had a raffle going. We also sold jhumkas — or traditional South Asian earrings —and lots of bangles. We also had picnic blankets that people could sit on because we knew that there was an Indian food truck that was catering.”

Nair placed a special emphasis on the photo booth that was present, which not only was adorned with cultural items, but also served as a way for attendees to memorialize their experience.

“We also had a photo booth that we decorated on a swing with marigold flowers, jasmine flowers and South Asian elements to really give the feeling of a cultural festival,” Nair said. 

Passersby and attendees at the festival found themselves greatly enjoying the festivities presented by the organizers in SAIO. Attendee Isata Diallo ’26 described how she was interested in learning about the South Asian culture associated with the event. 

“Recently, SAIO had a joint iftar with Muslim Student Association where they discussed having this event tonight, and I was like, ‘You know what? It’s nice, Eid is tomorrow, I would like to get some henna done and then get to know everyone around here,’” Diallo said. “So I think it’s a really nice opportunity to be exposed to South Asian culture and also know the significance of their religious holidays and things like that.”

Attendee Jonathan Chen ’24 appreciated the hard work the organizers put into the festival. 

“It’s a gorgeous event. The lights are really pretty. The balloon making is a very interesting addition,” Chen said. “When I’m planning events, I would never think of that. That’s just a novelty right there. And they have badminton set up over there. So I would say just the amount of event planning needed to go into this is so impressive.”

Diallo appreciated the active sports games and South Asian stalls surrounding the event.

“I love that they incorporated a little sports section over there,” Diallo said. “I wasn’t expecting that. It’s really nice. And obviously seeing people get henna done — it’s a very nice environment.”

Similarly, attendee Hannah Truong ’26 described how she enjoyed the ambiance, and specifically the lights, at the event. 

“I think the vibes of the event are really cool. Like, all the lights are really pretty. Everyone dressing up is super cool, and seeing everyone in their cultural wear,” Truong explained. 

In terms of SAIO itself, Nair introduced the organization’s goals and purpose.

“This is basically a space that embraces and encourages a lot of cultural and interfaith work and involvement, creating a safe space for South Asians of all communities, in all religions,” Nair said.

On a broader scale, SAIO seeks to decrease the divides that may exist between different religious or spiritual backgrounds among students at the College and give students an opportunity to support their peers, regardless of their beliefs. 

“When we talk about embracing our cultures, that kind of has an inherent notion of being divided,” Nair said. “We really wanted a space where we can all come together and be part of each other’s celebrations. So that’s why we wanted to host Chaand Raat.”


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