Nigeria is a country with very unique history and cultural heritage with lots of cultural festivals being celebrated in the country. For travelers who wish to explore Africa’s most populous country, below are list of 10 most popular festivals celebrated in Nigeria.
1. New Yam Festival
The New Yam Festival is one of the most popular festival celebrated in Nigeria. celebrated in Igbo land and beyond, New yam festival also known as Iwa ji, Iri ji ohuu or Ike ji, depending on dialect) is an annual cultural festival by the Igbo people held at the end of the rainy season in early August,
The celebration is a very culturally based occasion, tying individual Igbo communities together as essentially agrarian and dependent on yam.
Yams are the first crop to be harvested, and are the most important crop in the east. The New Yam Festival is therefore a celebration depicting the prominence of yam in the social-cultural life of many communities in Nigeria.
2. Durbar Festival
The Durbar festival is the most ancient and prominent festival in northern Nigeria. Celebrated majorly in the cities of Maiduguri, Kano, Katsina and Zaria, The ceremony is major part of the Id el Kabir celebrations as well as the Id el Fitri marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan and it attracts visitors and tourists from Nigeria and beyond. The Durbar festival was Originally celebrated to mark the advent of a war between ancient kingdoms or regarded as a form of military parade to the emirs and their councils to showcase the fighters who defended the territories.
3. Eyo Festival
The Eyo Festival, also known as the Adamu Orisha Play, is a Nigerian festival unique to the people of Lagos state. The 24 days festival features a major parade with participants dressed in white flowing robes that cover their entire body, top hats and sticks; and masquerades referred to as “Eyo” as well as costumed dancers. The festival sweeps through the entire city with focus on the Lagos Island and attracts a large number of tourists from around the world.
4. Calabar carnival
Calabar carnival, said to be Africa’s biggest street party is a month-long even that takes place in the city of Calabar, Cross River state Nigeria. Calabar carnival has turned out to be one of the most colourful, most popular and the most attended carnival in and around Nigeria. since the initiation of the carnival, Calabar carnival has helped boost the tourism industry of Cross River state and Nigeria in general as the carnival has draws millions of people within and outside Nigeria to witness the carnival.
5 . Ofala Festival
Ofala festival is a Nigerian Igbo festival that celebrates royalty. Ofala is the official cultural outing of the king and members of the cabinet in the year. The Ofala Festival is an annual ceremony practiced mostly by the Igbos of anambra state especially onitsha, nnewi, agulueri, ukpo etc. The festival serves as a rites of renewal of the Eze or Obi (King). Ofala festival attracts thousands of people within and outside the country who came to witness or pay homage to the king.
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6. Argungu Fishing Festival
The Argungu Fishing Festival or Argungu Dance Festival is an annual four-day festival in the state of Kebbi, in the Northern part of Nigeria. The Argungu Fishing festival features swimming competitions, bare-hand fishing, canoe racing and wild duck hunting which serves as side attractions. As music, drums and dance envelops the air, anxious participants try to outdo each other in a bid to gain the biggest catch. At the end of the festival, the winner is hugely celebrated, there is merriment across the towns and the river is sheltered to ensure it yields fishes for the next festival.
7. Osun-Oshogbo Festival
The Osun-Osgogbo festival is celebrated in the month of August at the grove. Yearly, the festival attracts thousands of Osun worshippers, spectators and tourists from all walks of life. For the people of Osogbo Land, August is a month of celebration, traditional cleansing of the city and cultural reunion of the people with their ancestors and founders of the Osogbo Kingdom. The Osun-Osogbo Festival is a two-week-long programme. It starts with the traditional cleansing of the town called ‘Iwopopo’, which is followed in three days by the lighting of the 500-year-old sixteen-point lamp called ‘Ina Olojumerindinlogun’.
8. Mmanwu Festival
Masquerades (Mmanwu) are held in accordance with the community native calendars during festivals, annual festivities, burial rites and other social gatherings. The masquerades are geared in colourful robes and masks made of wood or fabric. Some masks appear only at one festival, but the majority appears at many or all. Masquerades are associated with spiritual elements, as according to Igbo belief, they represent images of deities or sometimes even dead relatives. The identity of the masquerade is a well-kept secret and performed exclusively by men. There are annual masquerade festival in most Igbo communities called ogbako mmanwu (gathering of masquerades) where masquerades gather in village squares or open field to entertain people. Notable among the masquerade festival is the annual masquerade festival in November organised by Enugu State which involves masquerade groups from various parts of the state.
9. Igu Aro Festival
Igu Aro festivals are celebrated in some of Anambra’s communities to flag off the annual planting season.The Aro festival also called the “Igu aro” is one of the most colorful and celebrated festival in igbo land especially in Umueri . The Festival has a prime position in the life of the people due to economical importance attached to it . Because the Oracular and Prophetic utterance of the Priest depicts what would happened in a given year.
This include the oracular utterances of the priest in regards on what to expect during the harvest season: Whether there will be “Ugani” (famine), Nsogbu (problem), Agha (war), Onwu (death) etc. it was a sort of annual prophecy or prediction on what would happen in the coming season. If the prophecy turns out to have positive effect, the people tend to work tiredlessly hard so as to reap the fruit of hard labour. But on contrary, they tend to be cautious during the planting season starting with the first moon of the new season.
10. Sango Festival
Sango Festival is an annual festival in Nigeria held among the Yoruba people in honour of Sango, a thunder and fire deity who was a warrior and the third king of the Oyo Empire after succeeding Ajaka his elder brother. Renamed in 2013 to World Sango Festival by the government of Oyo State, the festival is usually held in August at the palace of the Alaafin of Oyoand.