The Colourful Festivals of Nigeria: A Deep Dive into Cultural Celebrations

Ojude Oba festival
Written by Omolola Akinyemi

To all the passionate lovers of travel, who wish to taste the exotic pleasures of tropical lands. We extend an open invitation to come to Nigeria. In spite of news and current happenings, the relative safety of Nigeria’s many towns, city centers and suburbs will surprise you on arrival. This incredibly diverse nation with hundreds of ethnic groups, vast range of tasty cuisine, and choice tourist attractions has more to offer. You will be equally wowed when you witness the colourful festivals of Nigeria.

And if you are a Nigerian citizen, make it a point to attend at least one cultural celebration outside your immediate vicinity. You need to taste and see the beauty and diversity of Nigerian culture, to know that this country is indeed a blessed one. Then you will appreciate the drive for the nation’s unity in the midst of diversity. 

Get ready for a mind-blowing and unforgettable experience, as you partake of at least one of the many colourful festivals of Nigeria. We will be highlighting the top ten most popular cultural celebrations in Nigeria, in this article. 

The Calabar Carnival

The Calabar Carnival is an annual event that takes place for a full month every December in Calabar, Cross River state. Often tagged ‘Africa’s biggest street party’, it is arguably the largest street carnival in Africa. And it plays hosts to participants and visitors from many countries across Africa and beyond.  This is one of the colourful festivals of Nigeria you should attend at least once in your lifetime – it is a gigantic package of fun.   

Calabar Carnival

The event is typically a colourful blend of stylishly-dressed and talented costume dancers, in a vast variety that will leave you spell-bound. It showcases performers, dancers, and bands from different cultures across Cross Rivers state and all over Africa, who embark on street parades.

Each year is given a different theme meant to celebrate Nigeria’s rich and diversified culture and history. You will witness all kinds of entertainment that cuts across the traditional and the modern. And observers are allowed to partake of the fun. Yet again, there is the annual competition for the best carnival band. As such, each group and locality would embark on months of preparation to clinch the grand prize.

Lagos Carnival

You know and we know that Lagos is the jamming city, the entertainment capital of Nigeria. So it is no surprise that Lagos hosts its own annual mega street carnival (aside from many smaller street carnivals that also take place). 

Also called Fanti (or Caretta) Carnival, the Lagos Carnival started in the 19th Century, when former Brazilian slaves returned to settle in Lagos. It competes with the Calabar Festival in hugeness; and is probably the most popular street festival in West Africa. 

Lagos Carnival Fanti Caretta

The Lagos Carnival takes place every year on January 1st, during the celebration of the Lagos Black Heritage Festival. It is hosted in Victoria Island, beckoning thousands of participants from across the world. Obviously one of the most colourful festivals of Nigeria, it is an exciting mix of Brazilian, Lagosian and Cuban cultural performances. 


The Port Harcourt Carnival (or Carniriv) is hosted for a full week in Port Harcourt every year, just some weeks before Christmas. The hugely popular cultural celebration combines the typical celebration of local and nearby cultures, with a Caribbean-style carnival. It is the biggest tourism event in Rivers State. 

Port Harcourt carnival Carniriv

Ofala Festival

The Ofala Festival is a yearly celebration of culture in Anambra state, which takes place every September. It is the yearly mandate of the Obi of Onitsha to perform kingship rites to renew his office, and to make prayers for his people. It is a great time for family reunion, and community bonding.

Ofala festival

Along with other local traditional rulers, the Obi of Onitsha would be seen dressed in colourful feathered headdresses, royal costumes, and traditional staffs. On completing the prayers and rites, the assembly of rulers would then embark on a royal parade, surrounded by music and cheerful celebration. 

There are also unforgettable masquerade performances. Masquerades of all kinds are seen dancing through the streets, while the people celebrate with them. 

New Yam Festivals

New Yam festivals are commonly celebrated in many communities across southeast Nigeria every year. The Iriji-Mmanwu festival in Enugu state; and the New Yam festival in Leboku, Ugep, Cross River Sates are typical examples. The festival normally marks the beginning of the harvest season, particularly when new yam is harvested.

New Yam festival

The event plays host to hundreds of colourfully-dressed dancers, masquerades, acrobatic performers, and village heads who embark on certain traditional rituals. The celebration and rituals are done in honor of ancestral gods. for bringing forth good crops. As such, the best of freshly harvested yams will be on display. The village priest or ruler embarks on prayers and sacrifices to request for healthy crops in the next harvest season. Then he offers yam to the gods. Thereafter, yam is shared to the locals. 

The show is not complete without feverish, infectious cultural dances and performances by several traditional dance troupes. It promises to be a time of community bonding, making and renewing of friendships, and an intense celebration of culture. It also offers an opportunity to pray and plan for more prosperous years to come.

Eyo Festival

The Eyo Festival is a huge annual Yoruba cultural celebration of several days, that takes place in Lagos Island. It is done in honour of their ancestors, and a means of showcasing and preserving the cultural heritage. The festival is reputed to have been in existence for centuries. 

Eyo festival

The festival features the largest collection of masquerades, costume dancers, and celebrants, all dressed in white. They usually begin the celebration by forming a procession to pay homage to the Oba of Lagos at his palace (Iga Iduganran). It is sometimes tagged the ‘Adamu Orisha Play’.

Eyo festival culminates in a feverish pitch of dancing masquerades in white hats, staffs, and costumes (called ‘Eyo’). They are seen moving in grand processions through the streets of Lagos Island. They are accompanied with music from drummers and praise singers, as well as other celebrants dressed in all-white. The white is a symbol of purity and spirituality – which is not an uncommon dressing amongst the traditional ruling council of Lagos. During that period, many of the major roads will remain closed.  

Ojude Oba Festival

Ojude Oba (‘The King’s front year’) is one of the popular and colorful festivals of Nigeria. It is celebrated by the people of Ijebu Ode people in Ogun state, on the third day following the Eid-el-Kabir festival every year. 

Ojude Oba festival

The celebration culminates in the act of paying homage to the paramount ruler, the Awujale of Ijebuland. It involves a number of activities ranging from traditional songs, to cultural parades, horse riding displays, and much more. 

Osun Osogbo Festival

The months of July and August plays host every year to one of the most renowned and colourful festivals of Nigeria: the Osun Osogbo festival

Osun Osogbo festival

It is a week-long celebration during which traditional worshippers troop to the Sacred Forest of Osun, to honour Osun – the river goddess of Yorubaland. It takes place in Osun state (southwest Nigeria). It is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage event, and it draws visitors from all over the world. 

Tourists and natives alike visit the sacred forest to offer prayers to the river goddess and partake of the celebration. It is huge celebration with traditional music and dance, which begins with the cleansing of the host town. This is called the ‘Iwopopo’ ritual. It culminates in the leading of a large procession of worshippers to the Osun sacred grove. One of the highlights of the celebration is the ‘Arugba’ (a young virgin carrying the sacrificial calabash). She is chosen to lead the procession to the sacred river to perform rituals.

While the event progresses, a variety of tasty local dishes and drinks are made available. It is also an opportunity for local artists to display their curated artworks – which include intricate beadwork and wood carvings. 

Durbar Festival

The Durbar festival is a colorful celebration of the traditional heritage of Northern Nigeria. It serves as a meeting point for various indigenes of Northern Nigeria to unite, to celebrate oneness and the diversity of their cultures. 

Durbar festival

The Durbar festival takes places in October every year, and is celebrated in several northern states of Nigeria (including Kano and Kaduna). Family and friends share gifts and well wishes. While the streets come alive with music from drums, various traditional instruments, and dance. 

One of the notable events of the celebration is the colourful parade of well-dressed horse riders on decorated horses. As they match through the streets, these riders display their mastery of horseriding with skillful moves and acrobatic displays. The event also attracts thousands of tourists from beyond Nigeria. Furthermore, the local craftsmen have the opportunity to display and sell their wares to visitors – such as jewelry, leather works, and textile materials. 

Argungu Fishing Festival

The Argungu Fishing Festival is an enormous cultural event and fishing contest of international repute, hosted every year in Kebbi state. This cultural celebration takes place every July; and is an opportunity to showcase the history and customs of the people of Kebbi state.

Argungu Fishing Festival

The major highlight of the event takes place at the beginning – which is the fishing contest. Hundreds of men are seen jumping into the Argungu river with traditional fishing instruments, in a bid to catch the largest fish. After the panel of judges have weighed samples and chosen the biggest fish, the winner goes home with a special prize. 

Beyond this, the event also showcases other fun activities. They include canoe races, procession of horse riders, and several cultural performances. There is an abundance of traditional music, drums, and cheerful observers. While women are gorgeously and colourfully dressed for the event. At the end of  the contest, friends and family settle down to enjoy traditional food, music and dance.  

Sango Festival

Every year, local Yoruba worshippers and cultural enthusiasts in Nigeria and the diaspora gather to celebrate and honor Sango, the god of thunder. The cultural festival is held in Oyo state every August, at the palace of the paramount ruler – the  Alaafin of Oyo. The event marks the beginning of the traditional New Year in Yorubaland. 

Sango festival

Furthermore, the Sango Festival is so popular amongst Yorubas in the diaspora, that it is celebrated in over 40 countries of the world as we speak. It was renamed the World Sango Day by the Oyo state government in 2013. It is a spectacular cultural celebration, and an opportunity to celebrate Yoruba history and tradition worldwide. 








You may not republish, reproduce, or redistribute any content on this website either in whole or in part without due permission or acknowledgment.
Proper acknowledgment includes, but not limited to;

(a) LINK BACK TO THE ARTICLE in the case of re-publication on online media,

(b) Proper referencing in the case of usage in research, magazine, brochure, or academic purposes,.
All contents are protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1996 (DMCA).

The images, except where otherwise indicated, are taken directly from the web, if some images were inserted by mistake violating the copyright, please contact the administrator for immediate removal.

We publish all content with good intentions. If you own this content & believe your copyright was violated or infringed, please contact us at [] for immediate removal.

About the author

Omolola Akinyemi

A Computer Science graduate of UNILAG, I hail from Ekiti state of Nigeria. An astute teacher, learner & admin assistant of many years experience. I love technology, innovation, and Nature. A problem solving mentality is important to me. The future is only seconds away, and I believe I can define the future now. You can also.