Cultural festivals are special occasions celebrated in every tribe and ethnic groups in Nigeria. Over the years, these important festivals in Nigeria play a significant role to the people and are seen as an avenue to display or remember the cultural heritage of the tribe.
The colour, regalia, flair, music and other performances are just a few characteristics when describing the beauty that comes with Nigerian Festivals. For Nigerians, festivals are not just holidays but celebrating the rich cultural heritage of the people.
From the Northern region which houses the Hausa and Fulani tribe, to the Southern region where the Yorubas stay and down to the East, the Igbo speaking tribe, there are popular Nigerian cultural festivals these groups are known for.
In this post, we list the top 10 popular festivals celebrated in Nigeria on a yearly basis in the country.
Top 10 Popular Festivals in Nigeria
1. The Eyo Festival
The Eyo Festival, known to be the forerunner of the biggest carnival event in the world, the Rio De Janeiro carnival is a display of startling white. The white costume is usually worn by the dancers or masquerades called “Eyo” from which the festival gets its name.
It’s usually a stunning display and the procession closes all the major roads. The famous Eyo festival usually lasts for a massive 24 days and is celebrated by the indigenes also known as “Isale Eko”. This special occasion attracts both people from different tribes and countries outside of Nigeria. It is known to be one of the most popular festivals in Nigeria.
2. The Osun Festival
This is another popular festival celebrated in the Western part of Nigeria. The Osun festival is actually held in Osun state and takes place in the month of May and May every year. The festival spans 14 days and has lots of activities taking place.
Like the Eyo festival, both tourists and people from other states come to witness the festival and seek solutions to their problems from the Osun goddess.
The Osun festival is an important celebration which involves the traditional purification of the community and cultural reunion of the people with their forefathers. This festival is beyond the funfair and merry-making for the Osun people. It usually an ingrained part of their culture and religion.
3. Argungun Fishing Festival
Leaving the West, let’s take a trip down to the North. The Argungun Fishing festival, popular in Kebbi and Sokoto states respectively is one of the most exciting fishing festivals or tournaments ever!
The festival is usually celebrated between the months of May and May. During this cultural festival, the air is torched by both feelings of anxiety, anticipation, cheers, enthusiasm, and other forms or display of emotions both from the competitors and the spectators.
The competition basically involves several competitors jumping into the river in a search for the biggest fish. That is to say, the fisherman who catches the biggest fish is declared the winner. The cultural festival is used to test both the prowess and skills of the competitors and unite the people.
4. The New Yam Festival
Even though this festival is celebrated mostly by the Igbos or our Eastern brothers and sisters as an occasion of unity, the new yam festival is also celebrated in other parts of Nigeria, both among the Idomas and Yorubas.
The new yam festival is often lined up with amazing performances by masquerades, dancers and acrobatic displays. The new yam festival usually takes place at the end of the rainy season in May.
It also signifies the end of the planting season and the beginning of another. This important festival which is usually full of joy, funfair, merrymaking and colourful attires is simply a work of art.
5. The Ofoala Festival
This is another top festival celebrated in the eastern part of Nigeria. It is usually celebrated among the Igbo people most especially those from Onitsha and Anambra state.
This popular Nigerian festival got its name from two Igbo terms ” Ofo” meaning Authority and ” Ala” meaning land. This goes to state the purpose of the festival. The festival is usually celebrated as a sign of authority and legality of the ruler of the land. The festival is celebrated annually.
From the day the ruler is crowned to the day he dies. The arena is a beautiful colour of red as the traditional rulers are clothed in their red caps and attire. It is usually a display of authority and wealth.
During the festival, the king usually offers prayers and blessings for the people. Often times, the event is marked by honouring some people with chieftain titles.
6. The Calabar Carnival
This occasion is Africa’s biggest street party! Straight from south south Nigeria in Cross river state. The colours, the performances, the dancers, the flair, the parades, the bands are all the things that make this cultural festival exciting.
Recognized nationwide, both indigenes and non-indigenes go to be part of this event. The beautiful costumes reveal and celebrate the cultural heritage of the people. The atmosphere is usually alive with crazy excitement.
This colourful carnival is held in port Harcourt. This Nigerian festival attracts both tourists and natives. It is one that involves a lot of music, cultural displays, etc.
Usually held a few weeks before Christmas and lasting for one week, the carnival combines two different carnivals; a contemporary Caribbean style carnival and a cultural carnival that turns the ‘Garden City’ to a place splayed with colour. The Carnival also features musical performances from local and guest artists.
8. Lagos Carnival
Another celebration of colour and flair is the Lagos Carnival. It takes place yearly on Lagos Island and it is similar to the Calabar carnival.
The air is full of excitement and both natives and tourists come for the event. It is an event to have fun and make new friends.
The carnival is usually lined up with various activities and entertainment.
9. The Durbur Festival
Taking you right back to the north, another popular festival celebrated in Nigeria is the Dubur festival. The festival usually involves a parade of thousands of men on horses clothed in lovely attires.
The festival is celebrated in the north and popular in Maiduguri, Kano, Katsina and Zaria. The final parade usually holds in the village square and that is where the villagers usually gather to enjoy the festival.
The parade usually displays the Emir, followed by his entourage of horses and then the musical players. It is usually a very colourful event. In modern times, the Dubur Festival is celebrated to commemorate the end of the holy month of Ramadan and shared with Eid-el Kabir and Eid-el Fitri, Muslim holidays.
10. The Sango Festival
At the Sango festival, is where I bring this list to an end. The Sango festival is celebrated annually by the Yoruba people in Oyo state every May. The festival is usually held at the Alaafin of Oyo’s palace.
It is an incredibly popular festival and is held to celebrate the Yoruba deity known as sango; who is recognized as the god of thunder. The festival is almost like an annual homecoming for all Yourbas. The event attracts visitors from all around the globe.
From the startling white of the Eyo festival to the deep culture expressed in the Osun Festival and down the thrilling lane of the excitement and anxiety of the Agurugun fishing festival, and then the gratitude and celebration of the new yam festival, and then soaking in the display of power and affluence at the ofoala festival.
The sharp turn that throws you into the colour and funfair of the Calabar Festival, The displays of the Carniv and entertainment of the Lagos festival, through to the slope of the colourful Durbur festival and lastly the cultural reverence witnessed in the Sango festival.
These festivals are the top popular festivals celebrated in Nigeria. I do hope you enjoyed this journey? Which of these festivals happen to be your favourite? It never hurts to share a story.