12 Top Cultural Events and Festivals in Nigeria

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Nigeria is like a big, colourful blanket made of many different pieces. Each piece stands for a different ethnic group, language, and custom. With more than 250 ethnic groups, there’s always some celebration, party, carnival or festival happening somewhere in the country.

Are you ready to get to know about the 12 Top Cultural Events and Festivals in Nigeria? Buckle up because we’re about to take a ride through some of the most thrilling and best cultural events in Nigeria.

These festivals aren’t just there to make you dance your best dance moves or party out all week long, but they’re like time machines, connecting Nigerians to their roots and helping to keep ancient traditions alive in this ever changing world. 

So, let’s jump right in and explore some of the most jaw-dropping cultural events that make Nigeria the country it is!

12 Top Cultural Events and Festivals in Nigeria

12 Top Cultural Events and Festivals in Nigeria

Are you ready to get to know about the 12 Top Cultural Events and Festivals in Nigeria? Below are some of the top cultural events in Nigeria:

1. FESTAC 77′

12 Top Cultural Events and Festivals in Nigeria

In 1977, Nigeria hosted FESTAC 77′, which was the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture. It was a massive celebration of African culture that brought together artists, musicians, and dancers from 59 countries. 

FESTAC 77′ was a festival that showcased African art to the world, demonstrating that it was dynamic and ready to make its mark on the global stage. Even nearly 50 years later, people still talk about the Festival, showing its lasting impact. The Festival was so unique and impactful that a whole area was named after it when the Festival was concluded.

The Festival’s symbol, the famous FESTAC mask, was a 16th-century ivory hip mask from Benin. This iconic symbol is still used to represent Nigerian culture today, making it quite impressive for a 500-year-old piece of jewellery.

2. Eyo Festival

12 Top Cultural Events and Festivals in Nigeria

Have you ever witnessed a parade of friendly ghosts? We’re not referring to Halloween in Lagos! The Eyo Festival is a spectacular event where hundreds of men dressed in all-white robes and hats resemble the world’s most fashionable spirits.

During the festival, the Eyo masquerades, wearing their unique white robes and hats, march through the streets of Lagos Island. They playfully tap spectators with their staffs for good luck, creating an atmosphere similar to a giant game of tag but with blessings instead of “you’re it”!

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If you hear someone shout “Agogoro Eyo!” during the festival, don’t just stand there – reply with “Eyo!” This is the festival’s special greeting, and joining in will make you feel like a true Lagosian!

3. Calabar Carnival

12 Top Cultural Events and Festivals in Nigeria

The Calabar Carnival is the “Pride of Nigeria”. It showcases how Nigerian’s party is known as “Africa’s Biggest Street Party.” Every December, the city of Calabar transforms into one massive month-long fiesta. 

Imagine streets filled with brightly costumed dancers, infectious music, and different kinds of delicious food. The carnival features cultural displays, beauty pageants, and a carnival king and queen competition. 

It’s like Nigeria’s ultimate celebration, combining the best parts of parties from around the world into one epic event!

4. Argungu Fishing Festival

12 Top Cultural Events and Festivals in Nigeria

The Argungu town, located in Kebbi State, northwestern Nigeria, is the seat of the Argungu Emirate and home of the largest fishing festival in Africa. The festival began in 1934 as a mark of the end of the centuries-old hostility between the Sokoto Caliphate and the Kebbi Kingdom. 

This festival has brought massive progress to the development of the state as a whole and is usually called the Fishing-Frenzy Festival. Imagine hundreds of fishermen diving into the Matan Fada River, armed with nothing but their bare hands and traditional nets, competing to catch the biggest fish. 

The main event is a one-hour fishing frenzy where competitors try to catch the largest fish they can. The winner gets cash, prizes, and eternal fishing glory. Additionally, the festival features boat races, wild duck-catching competitions, and bare-handed fishing contests. 

The largest fish ever caught at the festival weighed a whopping 75 kilograms! That’s about the weight of an adult kangaroo.

5. Annang Festival of Art and Culture

The Annang people of Akwa Ibom State sure know how to throw a party! The Annang Festival of Art and Culture is like a giant show-and-tell of Annang traditions, complete with music, dance, and enough art to fill a museum.

From intricate wood carvings to colorful textiles, the festival is a feast for the eyes. But it’s not just about looking – visitors can try their hand at traditional crafts, join in dances, and even learn a few words of the Annang language. It’s like a cultural crash course, but way more fun than any classroom!

6. Egungun Festival

Ever wished you could party with your great-great-grandparents? The Yoruba people have got you covered with the Egungun Festival! This colorful celebration is all about honoring ancestors, who are believed to return to the world of the living during the festival.

The stars of the show are the Egungun masquerades – men dressed in elaborate, colorful costumes that completely cover them from head to toe. These masquerades represent the spirits of ancestors and dance through the streets, blessing onlookers and sometimes playfully chasing them with whips. It’s like a spiritual game of tag!

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If you see an Egungun coming your way, it’s best to show respect by bowing or lying flat on the ground. Unless you fancy a playful whipping, that is!

7. Akata Benue Fishing Festival

The Benue River is not just a body of water. For the people of Benue State, it’s the centerpiece of its own festival! The Akata Benue Fishing Festival is a celebration of this mighty river and the fish that inhabit it. 

This is not your average fishing trip. Participants use traditional methods such as bare hands, spears, and nets to catch fish. It’s like taking a step back in time to witness how our ancestors fished, with the added excitement of a competition! 

The festival also includes boat races, swimming competitions, and cultural displays. It’s like a water park, a cultural hub, and a fishing tournament all combined into one!

8. Lagos Black Heritage Festival

The Lagos Black Heritage Festival is a celebration of African culture that brings together traditions from across the continent and the African diaspora. It’s a joyful reminder that, regardless of our current location, we are all part of one big African family. 

The festival features poetry readings, dance performances, art exhibitions, and fashion shows, making it a comprehensive showcase of African culture that’s also incredibly enjoyable. 

One of the festival’s main attractions is the carnival-like boat regatta on the Lagos Lagoon. This event celebrates the coastal area of Lagos and water activities, featuring a parade of decorated boats and other marine vessels, as well as activities such as swimming, boat racing, canoeing, and jet skiing.

9. New Yam Festivals in Nigeria

12 Top Cultural Events and Festivals in Nigeria

In Nigeria, Yam holds a special significance beyond being just a food – it’s revered as a symbol of abundance. It is celebrated during the New Yam Festival by various ethnic groups across the country. 

While the central theme of the festival is to celebrate the yam harvest, each region has its unique way of commemorating the occasion. In Igbo communities, it’s referred to as ‘Iwaji’ or ‘Iri Ji’. The Yoruba people celebrate ‘Odun Isu’, the Ukwuani people observe ‘Ine Owanre’, while the Igede people of Benue state mark the festival as ‘Igede Agba’. 

Regardless of the name it is called in any region or ethnic group, one thing is for sure – the festival is marked with an abundance of different types of food made with Yam.

10. Durbar Festival

12 Top Cultural Events and Festivals in Nigeria

Imagine a sea of horses with riders wearing the most colorful and elaborate outfits parading before their traditional ruler, the Emir. That’s the Durbar Festival for you! It’s a combination of a royal parade and a fashion show.

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The Durbar dates back to the introduction of the Emirate system to Northern Nigeria by Usman Dan Fodio. Today, it’s celebrated at the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Adha, and other important Islamic holidays. 

During the festival, horseback riders showcase their riding skills and sword-wielding prowess, creating a live-action historical spectacle with gorgeous costumes and daring stunts!

11. Golibe Festival

‘Golibe’ means ‘rejoice’ in Igbo, and that’s exactly what this festival is all about! Held in Anambra State, the Golibe Festival is like a giant, week-long party dedicated to spreading happiness.

From art exhibitions to dance competitions, from fashion shows to culinary contests, the Golibe Festival has something for everyone. It’s like someone took all the best parts of other festivals and mixed them to create one joy-filled extravaganza!

The Golibe Festival has a unique mix of entertainment, including an ethereal masquerade festival, a pageant, a musical festival, and various side attractions like a Dreamland for children and a Chill Zone for adults. There is also a fiercely contested football competition. It’s a complete entertainment package for everyone.

12. Ofala Festival

The Ofala Festival is like a royal show-and-tell, where the Obi (king) of Onitsha comes out to greet his people and show off his dance moves. Yes, you read that right – this festival features a dancing king!

The festival is a mix of sacred rites and public celebrations. The highlight and main attraction of the festival is when the Obi (The King)  appears in his full royal regalia, dancing to traditional music. The festival also features masquerade displays and cultural dances.

During the festival, the ‘Obi’ also confer chieftaincy titles on sons of the soil and other dignitaries who are worthy of the titles. The Ofala festival is a royal celebration that proves kings know how to party, too!

The Impact of Cultural Events on Nigerian Society

  • Economic Benefits

Cultural festivals in Nigeria are not just about having fun; they also have a significant economic impact. These events boost tourism, create jobs, and contribute millions of naira to the Nigerian economy annually. For instance, the Calabar Carnival attracts over 2 million visitors each year and generates billions of naira in revenue.

  • Cultural Preservation and National Unity

In a multicultural and diverse country like Nigeria, these festivals play a vital role in preserving cultural heritage and promoting national unity. They serve as a colourful reminder of the rich traditions that make up Nigerian culture. By bringing people together to celebrate, these festivals help bridge ethnic and religious divides. They create an environment where prejudices are set aside as people dance side by side at a carnival.

Final Words

Nigerian festivals, from the Durbar and Golibe Festival to the New Yam Festival and Calabar Carnival, showcase the country’s diverse and rich culture. These events are not just celebrations but connect the past to the present, unite communities, and highlight Nigerian creativity.

They offer something for everyone, whether you’re interested in culture, parties, or celebrations. So, consider experiencing these festivals firsthand for an unforgettable adventure and experience.  If you’re wondering when is the best time to visit Lagos, you’ve got your answer in the article. Just click the link.