Mahashivratri : The festival of Mahashivratri (literally means the 'Grand Night dedicated for the worship of Lord Shiva'). is looked upon with greatest reverence & respect by the devotees of Lord Shiva.
This festival is celebrated every year on the 13/14th day in the Krishna Paksha (waning moon fortnight, just before the new moon) of the month of Phalgun. As per the English calendar this is somewhere around Feb or March.
This day and more so the night is dedicated by the devotees of Lord Shiva for his worship, practice of various austerities & meditation. All the Shiva Temples are fully decorated and there are hordes of devotees queuing up to get darshan of Lord & offer their obeisance's at the feet of Lord Shiva on this special day.
Legends of Mahashivratri : There are various interesting legends related to the festival of Maha Shivaratri. According to one of the most popular legends, Shivaratri marks the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Some believe that it was on the auspicious night of Shivaratri that Lord Shiva performed the ‘Tandava’, the dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction. Another popular Shivratri legend stated in Linga Purana states that it was on Shivaratri that Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga. Hence the day is considered to be extremely auspicious by Shiva devotees and they celebrate it as Mahashivaratri - the grand night of Shiva. During the festival of Maha Shiva Ratri, devotees in Delhi observe a strict fast, like all other places.
The fast is broken only the next morning, after the nightlong worship of Lord Shiva. Throughout the night, the Shivalinga is washed every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc. After that, Bael leaves are also offered, as it is believed that Goddess Lakshmi resides in them. While washing the Lingam, devotees chant the mantra "Om Namah Shivaya". It is said that a person who chants the name of Shiva or his mantra during Shivratri with proper devotion is freed from all sins. He gets free from the cycle of birth and death and reaches the abode of Shiva and lives happily there.