Festival Ready? 7 Of The Best Nigerian Festivals
1. New Yam Festival
Yam is a staple in West Africa and a typical food you find around Nigeria. Unlike other foods, yam is quite different and much respected. It is more than food. In the very old days, commonly in the southern part of Nigeria, barns of yams show the wealth of a person, and even to date, it’s the only indispensable food accepted for bride price when a man seeks a wife. Someone with a large collection of yams was treated with prestige. The typical African yam, which is referred to as Dioscorea rotunda is one the best in the world in terms of quality and size.
From planting till harvest, the process of farming yam is taken sacred by some culture. Around June, the first yams are harvested and celebrated. Men would dig up their first yams for display and the farmers with the biggest yams are often admired. After the celebration, the yams are cooked or roasted with the women guiding the procession.
They are quite notable places in Nigeria where are yam festival is a very big festival. Among these places are the Ekinrin Adde community in Kogi state. This festival takes on the second week of June every year.
The procession starts with the New yam masquerade dancing around in town with a huge crowd carrying the yams; the yam is roasted and eaten by the King and top chiefs before it is declared okay for everyone to eat.
According to tradition, it is unacceptable for the community member to eat new yam before the celebration. This festival also serves as a period to thank the gods for a bountiful harvest and also ask for abundant rains for the next planting season. It is a common practice for indigenes of the town to return home to celebrate, meet their family members and also an opportunity to meet their age group.
2. Horse riding
Northern Nigeria has a long history of horse riding which historically is believed to have come from the trading period between sub-Sahara Africa and far Northern Africa. Camel and horses were used as a means of transportation.
Horses are a symbol of royal-hood and the horse riding festival is celebrated throughout northern Nigeria mostly after the Eid Mubarak celebration. From Niger to Kastina, down to Sokoto and Kano, horses are decorated days before the Durbar event.
Among the decoration is the horse headdress known as Kwalkwali. The decorative style is adorned beautifully on the headpiece and worn on the horse, as a show of fashion rather than armour for protection. The biggest of the Durbar festival is the one held by the Kano emirate in Kano. This festival attracts lots of tourists annually.
3.Festival of the gods
Masquerade is the English word that is often used to describe masked gods. This is often not a correct description of what they are in the real sense as these beings as often referred to as higher spirits from heaven and not just mere masked humans.
In the Yoruba pantheon, they are referred to as Ara Orun meaning people from heaven.
Among notable ‘masquerade’ festivals in the Yoruba culture is the Eyo festival-a festival unique to the people of Lagos, Nigeria.
Osun festival, in Osogbo Olojo festivals in Ife and Sango festival in Oyo are various other religious festivals done to celebrate indigenous gods and goddesses.
4. Fishing festival
Fishing is very much synonymous with one place in Nigeria- Argungun!
With its brown sands and murky freshwaters, Argungu local government looks so good you just want to dive right into the waters. But that’s not just it.
One of the biggest fishing festival in Nigeria, the Argungu festival wasn’t celebrated for a long time until last year. This festival which is done in the Argungu LGA of Birnin Kebbi is dated back to 1925. Thousands of fishermen rush in with their gourds and nets trying to outdo themselves in a fierce contest for the winning prize. This festival marks the end of the growing season.
5. Music festival
Nigerian music is the biggest in Africa and has gone far beyond the shores of Africa to round the world. With major collaboration between Nigerian musicians and other international artists, Nigeria music and sounds are adored internationally. Dubbed as the Coachella of Africa, the Gidi Culture Festival is one of the biggest music festivals which features numerous African artists.
6. King’s renewal festival
Kings in many kingdoms in Nigeria are also seen as deities. The first half of December is the month for the Igue festival in the Benin kingdom. The festival which is dated back to 1000 years ago, is series of events done to renew the power of the king who is considered as the spiritual leader of the kingdom. A similar festival called the Ofala festival is also done in Anambra in which several rites are done to also renew the king.
7. Cultural Carnival festival
Carnival is filled with colours, music and flavours. Abuja and Calabar host two of the biggest street festival in Nigeria. Both festivals are held in November and December annually.
All these events are major events on the cultural calendar and each year the number of luminaries on the performance list grows.