No matter what festival it is, the Igbos are sure to make it a memorable day for them. This post lists some of the most important festivals in Igbo culture.
The Igbo people are well known for their different celebrations which they hold dear to themselves. Some of these celebrations are widely celebrated by Igbos from different villages and towns, while some are restricted to people of a particular town in a particular state.
Some of the most important Igbo festivals arranged according to their level of popularity are shown below:
New yam festival
The new yam festival is one of the most important festivals in Igbo culture. It is known as “Iri ji ohuru” and translated to other Igbo dialects as “Iwa ji”, “Ike ji”. The new yam festival is widely celebrated in all parts of Igbo land. The celebration occurs yearly between the last week of July to the first week of September and all the villages in Igbo land choose a day for its celebration. The festival is done to thank the gods of the land for the bountiful harvest it gave them, and since yam is the most popular food harvested at the end of a planting season, they use it to mark the celebration.
The village head usually the king or chief as applies to each village announces the date for the new yam festival. A day or two days before the new yam festival, the Igwe’s cabinet goes to the palace to celebrate the festival with the king, and rituals are been poured to the gods before they eat the yam.
After the celebration at the Igwe’s palace, the cabinets go to their respective villages to celebrate the new yam festival at the market square. On the day of the celebration, different dishes of yam are prepared such as pounded yam, porridge yam, white yam and so on.
Generally, it is considered taboo for anyone to eat new a new yam before his village celebrates the new yam festival.
Installation of Ozo title
The installation of the Ozo title referred to as “Ichi Ozo” is a popular celebration in Igbo land as it is widely celebrated by all Igbo communities. It is a well-known celebration that happens once in a while because only wealthy people take up this title. On the day of the celebration, all Ozo title holders in the community will gather at the compound of the man taking up the title alongside people leaving in the community.
Animals such as cows and goats are slain to celebrate the festival, and food such as yam, rice, and soup are cooked in excess with a lot of drinks served to celebrate this special day. The celebration is adorned by different dancing groups showcasing their skills, masquerade parades and so on.
The Ozo title is bestowed on any wealthy indigene of a land who is well respected, upholds peace in the land and has money to take the title. An Ozo title holder is recognized with the white beads around his ankle and the white feather on his red cap. This ceremony can happen at any time of the year.
Ofala festival is a celebration done mostly by the Onitsha people. It is celebrated once a year by the Igwe and it is done as a form of remembrance of the Igwe’s coronation and a renewal of his authority. It is said that days before the festival, the Igwe remains indoors communing with his ancestors and thanking them for a successful year.
On the day of the celebration, the villagers are invited to the palace, the Igwe appears before the crowd with his cabinet and his family members to bless the kola and declare the ceremony open. The event features a wrestling competition, masquerade parade, and dance exhibition and it is indeed a lovely sight to behold. Food and drinks are in excess as the festival lasts for a minimum of two days.
The Ikeji festival is one of the most popular festivals in Nigeria. It is done by the people of Arondizuogu in Ideato North local government of Imo state. Ikeji is celebrated in April to mark the beginning of the planting season and the festival lasts for three days (Thursday – Saturday).
On a Thursday that marks the beginning of the celebration, each family kills a goat to kickstart the celebration in their individual homes. Towards evening, around 3 pm, the villagers gather at the square in “Nkwoachi” to watch the masquerade.
The masquerades parade graciously around with their individual group and the onlookers spray money on them. This display continues on Friday and ends on Saturday evening. The fun of the festival is seeing people being chased by the masquerades and listening to the unique sound each group comes with. This year’s celebration was sponsored by Life lager beer.
It is said that the people of Arochukwu in Abia state celebrate this Ikeji festival, but theirs occur at the end of the planting season, and it is done to thank the gods for a bountiful harvest.
Igboto Nma is translated as retirement. It is a celebration done by some villages in Abia state such as Abriba, Ohafia, Item and some parts of Umuahia. The celebration is a big one organized by the villages individually every 4 years for people within a certain age group usually 60 years and above.
This celebration marks the end of one’s participation in village activities including payment of dues. When a certain age group is due for retirement, the village head tasks them to execute one project for the community, this project could be; rebuilding the market, building a health centre, drilling a borehole for the community and so on.
This celebration is done at the market square and is regarded as a big festival as everyone retiring invites friends and family from different places to come watch their cultural display.
The Ori Okpa festival occurs yearly in Nsukka, Enugu state. It is done between February and March every year and it features masquerades dressed in white parading the roads of Nsukka. This festival lasts for one week, and during this period women are strongly advised to stay indoors or away from their patrol zone to avoid the masquerade group from flogging them. Just like the Ikeji festival of Arondizuogu, money is sprayed on the masquerades as they move about.
While there are other festivals in Igbo land, the foregoing are some of the most important festivals in Igbo culture. You might also be interested in Checklist For Igbo Traditional Wedding.