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Experience Nigeria Through Festivals: Who We Are As A People

Maurice Igugu
Published: July 7, 2021

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calabar carnival 1

Legend has it that Nigerians are the happiest people in the world and that’s because nobody does partying like we do! Hosting out-of-this-world celebrations are such a huge part of who we are as a people, and so festivals are one way to showcase our rich history, cultural heritage as well as the unique traditions of each of the over 520 ethnic groups in Nigeria.

If you haven’t been living under a rock, then you would know that within the past year of social distancing, a lot has changed. Now, even though things may never go back to the way they used to be, it wouldn’t stop us from being true to how we love to celebrate!!!

So, as a Nigerian, wherever you may be in the world, or as a foreigner looking to indulge in the complete Nigerian cultural experience, raise your glass and buffer your Sterling infinite credit card as we explore six Nigerian festivals you really don’t want to miss out on:

  1. Calabar Carnival

(Natives: Cross River, Calabar)

(Period: December annually)

Wait!?! A month-long event that features cultural displays of African excellence? Inject it!!!

The Calabar festival is an explosion of culture through music, dance, drama, and colorfully radiant fashion. Since its inception in 2004, the festival is popular for being Africa’s biggest street party. It showcases long feathered headdresses and colourful costumes in beauty pageants, mesmerizing dancers, street parades, band competitions, and football competitions.

The Calabar carnival is usually a huge tourist attraction and so most lodges around town get fully booked months ahead of time. Little worries, nothing can stand in your way of having absolute fun, especially since you have our Sterling infinite credit card in your corner to give you access to concierge services for hotel reservations, restaurant reservations and much more.

Ikeji 1
  • Ikeji Arondizuogu

(Natives: The Igbos)

(period: March or April annually)

There are so many avenues for proper enjoyment in the east and the Ikeji Arondizuogu just so happens to be one of them. Ikeji is usually a four-day festival of propitiation, thanksgiving and feasting which is held annually in March or April. The festival begins as a ceremony to mark the end of the planting season and the beginning of the harvest season. The festival is a four-market days’ (otu-izu ụka) festival, which is equivalent to one week in the English calendar. This is usually marked with colourful parades of beautiful masquerades such as Adamma, Ogionu, Mgbadike, Nwaaburuja, Igamejie and Ozoebune across the market square.

The essence of the festival is to bring the Igbo speaking community around the world together to celebrate the harvest of the first yams. Make sure you don’t go alone when attending this festival and have an extra stomach handy (just incase, *wink*) you can accommodate the influx of food.


  • Eyo Masquerade festival

(Natives: Lagos)

(Period: Special secret society events)

I know no one asked for a history lesson but here is a quick one- did you know that the Eyo festival was held to escort the soul of a departed Lagos King or Chief and to usher in a new king? How fascinating!  The Eyo masqueraders are unique for their characteristic head-to-toe white regalia and the decorated wide-brimmed hats of different colors. They always carry a staff called an opambata, which is used to ward off undesirable forces. During the festival, certain activities like smoking, riding motorcycles or bicycles, wearing sandals, wearing scarfs or carrying an open umbrella are prohibited.

History also makes us understand that Eyó was brought to Lagos to entertain an in-law but has now become a major tourist attraction in Isale Eko, Lagos.

  • Carniriv Carnival

(Natives: PortHarcourt, Rivers)

(Period: December)

If you are ever in the mood for a caribbean-style carnival infused in the traditional cultures of the people from the garden city, then you shouldn’t be missing the Carniriv Carnival. This particular one starts a few weeks before the festive season and lasts for seven days. The carnival also includes masquerades and is a melting pot of various cultures whose collective heritage produces a rich and entertaining event. The parades at the Carniriv include the Garden City Freestyle Parade, the International Heritage Parade, and the kids’ carnival. The event is held every December and features both local and international musicians.

Durbar Festival. Photo Nowo Blog preview
  • Durbar festival

(Natives: Kano)

(Period: End Of The Ramadan And Eid-ul-kabir)

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. During Durbar, A long line of horsemen in colorful regalia form a procession into the parade ground, with the Emir (the traditional ruler) being the last horseman, dressed in royal robes. Visitors can watch horsemen prance or gallop about on their horses while brandishing swords—a display of valor to honor the Emir. The highlight of the Durbar is the Jahi race, where several horsemen race towards the Emir at top speed and abruptly turn aside just before reaching him, and raise their sword or flag before exiting the race.

  •  EatDrink Festival

(Natives: Everyone)

(Period: End Of Year/December)

As a Nigerian, I think we can all agree that the best part of every event is #ItemNumber7 which simply stands for food, drinks and more! So why not have an event that celebrates just that! The EatDrink festival (powered by Sterling) began in Lagos in 2015 as a fertile environment for local culinary entrepreneurs to grow and meet new audiences. In addition to bites and sips from a dynamic selection of Lagos’ up and coming vendors, you’ll find pop ups from celebrity chefs, aspiring chefs, and hobbyist cooks. There are also festival workshops to celebrate the art in food and to help aspiring chefs brush up on their skills.

How intriguing!!!

The beautiful thing about Nigeria is that there are so many more festivals and you might as well end up celebrating every day of the year! More intriguing is the fact that with the Sterling infinite credit card, you have your very own travel buddy which gives you access to concierge services and the best comfort has to offer. You can also partner with Altfinance to get the best holiday destinations and travel tips. With all being said, let me know in the comment, which of these festivals you would be experiencing first.

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