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Top 5 largest annual festivals in Nigeria

Italy and Brazil may be known as the flagbearers for street carnivals but in recent times, other countries like  Nigeria, have began boosting their local festivals and now stand a chance at competing with the latter giants.

While festivals are not new to Nigeria, the most popular ones lure tourists from around the world on a visit  to the country annually.

From the Eyo Festival to riverine ceremonies, there is a variety of events that showcase the religious history, music, art indigenous folklore and cultural heritage of the nation. Jovago presents the top 5 of these festivals that are held annually across the country.

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Durbar festival

The most prominent festival in northern Nigeria, the Durbar festival is popular in Maiduguri, Kano, Katsina and Zaria.

Originally intended to mark the advent of a war between ancient kingdoms or regarded as a form of military showcase to the Emirs and their councils to extol the fighters who defended the territories, the festival is now performed as a ceremonial parade.

The parades are filed with aesthetics, colors and are a major part of the Id el Kabir and Id el Fitri celebrations, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

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Eyo festival

A regional festival which is unique to the city of Lagos, Eyo festival stems from ancient Yoruba history and is speculated to be the inspiration for the modern day Rio de Janeiro carnival in Brazil.

The festival features a long procession with participants dressed in white flowing robes which cover their entire body; top hats and sticks, and the masquerades are referred to as “Eyo”.

One of the major objectives of the festival is to pay homage to the Oba of Lagos. The 24-day event sweeps through the entire city with a focus on the Lagos Island and attracts a large number of tourists from around the world.

People gather at the Osun sacred river to collect water during an annual festival held to worship a river goddess in Osogbo, southwest Nigeria, August 4, 2006. The annual cultural festival around a sacred grove, enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre in 2005, draws tens of thousands of ethnic Yoruba Nigerians and others to mark the remains of a mystic bond between the people and a river goddess "Osun," believed to bring divine favour and fertility. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye (NIGERIA)

Osun-Osogbo festival

A highly cultural and spiritual ceremony held annually in Osun State, the Osun-Osogbo festival is marked between the months of July and August and has thousands of worshippers, observers as well as tourists join in the festivities.

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Celebrated at the Sacred Osun grove in honour of the river goddess, Oshun of Osun State, the event lasts for two weeks.

The first stage features the ‘Iwopopo’ – a traditional cleansing of the land; ‘Ina Olojumerindinlogun’ – the lighting of the 500-year-old sixteen-point lamp; and finally the ‘Ibroriade’ – an assemblage of the crowns of past rulers, and a committee of priestesses.

While the colorful parades and parties across the city suggest light-hearted merriment, the festival is a deeply rooted in historic Oshogbo traditions.

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Argungu fishing festival

With an origin traced to the visit of the late Sultan Dan Mu’azu in 1934 who was honored with a similar celebration, the Argungu fishing festival has been around for decades.

The festival, widely popular in Kebbi and Sokoto state, is a competitive feast that aims to weigh the fishing skills of the locals. It is usually celebrated between the months of February and March and also marks the end of a farming season.

As music, drums and dance envelops the air, anxious participants try to outdo each other in a bid to net the biggest catch. Other activities, including swimming competitions, bare-hand fishing, canoe racing and wild duck hunting serve as side attractions.

At the end of the festival, the winner is rewarded and merriment envelopes the towns. The end of the jubilation the river is sheltered to ensure it yields fishes for the next festival.

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The New Yam Festival

A popular annual festival among indigenes of south-eastern Nigeria, the New Yam Festival is locally referred to as Iriji-Mmanwu, Iwa ji, or Ike ji,  by the Igbo speaking areas in the region.

Ripe with masquerades, colorful costumes, cultural dances and displays, the event symbolizes the end of a harvest and the commencement of the next farming cycle.

This celebration is a highly cultural occasion and unifies different Igbo communities as they are essentially agrarian and dependent on yam for the production of local delicacies.

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