Nigeria is a land of many cultures and traditions, which gives rise to several festivals and celebrations. The country is home to the major 2 religions that dominate the world. Almost 50% of the population follows the teachings of Prophet Mohammad. While 40% of the country follows the teachings of the Bible. Both religions celebrate their festivals next to each other and sometimes even partake in each other’s celebrations. In addition to this, nearly 10% of the indigenous tribes of Nigeria have their unique traditions and festivals. Several other countries of the world celebrate these festivals, but we are here to tell you about how the Nigerians do it. Here is a list of public holidays in Nigeria, which they celebrate slightly different from the rest of the world.
The Most Popular Public Holidays In Nigeria
1. New Year
New Year in Nigeria is an occasion celebrated by both the Christian and the Islamic community in their own similar, yet unique way. The Christians go to the evening prayer service on the 31st of the previous year December. The celebrations often include grooving to after parties and welcoming the new year in style. But, the Muslims just gather in the mosque, offer prayers and have a lavish dinner. The celebrations take place on the 1st of January every year.
2. Eid Al Maulud
It is one of the first Muslim festivals that takes place during the starting of the year in February. The festival commemorates the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohamad who was born in 570 AD. In other regions, it is known as ‘Eid Al Mawlid’ which translates to ‘birth of the prophet’. The day is a public holiday in all of Nigeria and every region of Nigeria celebrates the festival in a slightly different way.
3. Argungu Fishing Festival
As the name suggests, this is a fishing festival held since 1934 in the northwestern state of Nigeria known as Kebbi. The festival witnesses several fishermen gathering around the Sokoto river in March. The agenda of the festival is to catch the biggest fish, with a homemade fishing net. The winner wins the prize money for the grand festival.
4. Easter Monday
Yes, in Nigeria Easter is often known as Easter Monday and is one of the popular public holidays in Nigeria. This is because in Nigeria on the auspicious occasion of Easter an extra day of leave is given the following Monday. Easter is the celebration of the rise of Jesus from the dead and always falls on a Sunday. And sees the locals celebrating the occasion through music and dance to the sound of beating African drums over to monday.
5. Osun Festival
This is another popular festival that takes place towards the rainy season, mostly by the end week of August. The festival is a traditional celebration by the Yoruba people, to honour the river goddess of the Osun river. The tribe priest offers prayers to goddess Oshun and seeks protection for the villagers for the coming year. The festival takes place in the Osogbo Sacred forest.
6. Eid Al Fitri
The festival of Eid Al Fitri generally takes place at the end of Ramadan and is one of the popular public holidays in Nigeria. Which is an Islamic month of daylight fasting and repentance for the bad deeds post the previous year of Ramadan. The day is set according to the Islamic lunar calendar for the given year. In Nigeria, the day is ‘Small Saleh’. The festival witnesses grand celebrations and Muslim Nigerians heading home for a grand feast with their family and friends.
7. Eid Al Kabir
This festival is known as Eid Al Adha in other Islamic countries, which translates to the ‘festival of sacrifice’. The festival generally occurs in the last week of October, especially on the last day of Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Mecca) according to the Islamic lunar calendar. In Nigeria, this festival is mostly popular with villages in the countryside. Which sees the locals coming out in bright clothing and taking part in parades and horsemanship all day long.
8. Independence Day
Independence Day or National Day is a festive occasion that Nigeria celebrates with pride. The day marks the anniversary of the independence and liberation of Nigeria from the colonial rule of the British. The celebration takes place on the 1st of October every year and starts with the presidential speech. Post which the flag hoisting ceremony takes place. After that, the army moves down the street of Abuja in a parade. The soldiers even take part in several different Nigerian dance forms. The entire celebration is shown on the national channel.
9. Calabar Carnival
Although a fairly new celebration that has made its debut in the Nigerian holiday calendar. It has already earned the title of ‘Nigeria’s largest street party’. The celebration or carnival starts on the 1st of December and goes on till the 31st of December. The carnival includes several programs ranging from music to dancing and several other cultural events that vary every day.
10. Christmas Day
Just like the rest of the world, Nigeria celebrates its Christmas festivities on the 25th of December. As it is one of the most important celebrations for all Christians in the country because it marks the birth of Jesus. But unlike the rest of the world, Nigeria has several different traditions and styles for celebrating the auspicious festival. For e.g in the south region of Nigeria in a place known as Igboland. The locals indulge in a masquerading dance form known as ‘Mmo’. And it is an art form that predates Christianity and traditionally honours Nigerian ancestors.