10 Most Popular Festivals in Nigeria

Festival celebrations are an important aspect of the cultural and traditional heritage of Nigerians and Africans generally, and despite the advent of education and how fast it is changing old practices, more educated people are waking up to the importance of culture and tradition and their roles in keeping our identity.

Nigeria’s various tribes and ethnic groups can showcase and celebrate their cultural history through cultural festivals. These tribes and ethnic groups commemorate these special days in remembrance of their gods and deities or to carry out certain rituals. These celebrations are typically quite colorful and entertaining, showcasing the people’s rich cultural heritage through masquerade performances, vibrant traditional dances, and observance of religious rites.

10 Most Popular Festivals in Nigeria

Over the years, some of these popular festivals have attracted tourists and Nigerians in diaspora, particularly notable sons and daughters of such communities or those tied to the festivals. Here are the top ten most popular traditional festivals in Nigeria:

10. Eyo Festival

The Eyo Festival is a Yoruba celebration that is exclusive to Lagosians; it is typically observed in Lagos by residents of Isale Eko.

The celebration includes agogoro Eyo, a traditional Eyo masquerade that portrays the spirits of the deceased and is dressed entirely in white, as well as other performances of regional dance forms.

The “senior” eyo group, the Adimu (identifiable by a black, broad-rimmed hat), makes its public debut with a staff one full week before the celebration (always on a Sunday). When this occurs, it indicates that the event will take place on the Saturday after that. From Monday through Thursday, the other four Eyo groups, Laba (Red), Oniko (Yellow), Ologede (Green), and Agere (Purple), alternate.

9. Calabar Carnival

The annual Calabar Carnival festival in Nigeria, also referred to as “Africa’s Biggest Street Party,” takes place in Cross River State in the country’s southeast.

A carnival with band competitions, parades, cuisine, and dancing is held every December. Up to 50,000 costumed participants and 2 million spectators attend the carnival, which is televised across the nation.

8. Osun-Osogbo Festival

Osun Osogbo Festival highlights the rich cultural legacy of the Osun people, the Osun-Osogbo festival is a two-week celebration that takes place in Osun state.

The celebration, which honors a Deity known as the Osun River goddess, is held in the revered Osun Groove.

A vast crowd gathers for the festival’s grand march to the shrine in the sacred grove. The event is made more pompous and colorful by the use of drumming, dancing, musical performances, elaborate costumes, Yoruba language speaking, readings of praise poems, and other activities. The sitting Ataoja of Osogbo, a ritual performer known as the Arugba, and a group of priestesses oversee this occasion, which recreates the first encounter between Oluwatimilehin and Yeye Osun. A young woman from a royal family portrays Arugba, who offers the sacrifice to the god.

7. The New Yam Festival

The eastern Nigerians, especially the Igbo, celebrate the new yam festival as a cultural event. It is observed in August at the end of the rainy season to cap off a productive farming year and to usher in a new one.

The new yam festival serves as a kind of unity celebration by uniting the various tribes to rejoice and includes rituals carried out to express gratitude to the various deities of the various tribes.

The Iri-ji festival, which literally means “eating new yams,” is celebrated throughout West Africa (particularly in Nigeria and Ghana) as well as other African nations and abroad to mark the end of one work cycle and the start of the next. The event, which is heavily rooted in culture and unites several Igbo communities as being mostly agrarian and reliant on yam, the king of crops,

6. Argungu Fishing Festival

Fishing enthusiasts from all around the state gather for the fun Argungu fishing festival, where they compete to capture the biggest fish.

In Argungu, a riverside town in Kebbi State, the festival is held to signal the start of the fishing season. Every year, it is observed between February and March.

5. Durbar Festival

Most of the northern cities of Nigeria annually celebrate the Durbar festival, which combines horse competitions with cultural and religious celebrations. The celebration signifies the conclusion of Ramadan and falls on the same weekend as the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitri.

A colorful mounted parade led by the Emir and his entourage of horses, musicians, and artillerymen follows the early morning prayers. Noblemen travel to the Durbar festivities to honor the Emir and renew their allegiance to their respective emirates.

4. Ofala Festival

Southeast Nigeria’s Igbo people hold an annual rite known as the Ofala Festival. This vibrant cultural event is conducted at the Oba’s palace (traditional ruler).

On the anniversary of the monarch’s accession to the throne, it is customary to celebrate the ruler’s legitimacy and authority. The Ofala festival provides the traditional leader with a chance to interact with and thank his subjects for their devotion.

3. Ojude Oba

Ojude Oba is a cultural celebration held in Nigeria in honor of the Awujale, the supreme head of state of Ijebu-Ode. When the Awujale granted Muslims land so they could construct a mosque, the event was first held in 1892. Additionally, he gave British missionaries the land on which Ijebu’s first church was built.

Although the celebration began as a Muslim religious holiday (it takes place on the third day of Eid-el-Kabir), it is now observed by the majority of Ijebu people. The lavish celebrations and partying, which include dances by many groups dressed in complementary traditional attire, draw tourists. The main draws during Ojude Oba are the warriors’ horse displays, the vibrant traditional clothing worn by ethnic groups, and the beauty pageants.

2. Egungun Festival

In the Yoruba kingdom, the Egungun festival is held to commemorate the passing of notable figures. The festival is observed by the Egbas, Egbados, residents of Oyo, as well as other tribes in the southwest of Nigeria. It is a part of the Yoruba traditional religion.

The festival is held between November and April, when there are no rains, and includes a variety of masquerade displays, singing, and dancing. The general belief is that the ancestors’ spirits shouldn’t suffer in the rain.

1. Sango Festival

In the Western region of Nigeria, the Yoruba people celebrate the Sango festival. Celebrated to commemorate Sango, a Yoruba deity.

Every year, Yoruba people from all across Nigeria and the world gather for the festival to commemorate the deity. It has a variety of vibrant cultural exhibitions that highlight the Yoruba people’s rich heritage.

The event, which is typically held in August and lasts for a week, now draws over 20,000 spectators from all over the world, including Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Caribbean. This is because of its renaming in 2013. The UNESCO-recognized festival is held to encourage the return of Yorubas from the diaspora and to honor Sango, who is revered as the greatest hero in the annals of the Yoruba people.

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