The most popular festivals celebrated in Igbo land are yearly ceremony that is very significant in the lives of the Igbo people and their community.
Igbo tribe, indigenous to the southeastern part of Nigeria are an ethnic group well-known for their enterprising, independent and adventurous nature. Natively referred to as Ndi Igbo, the tribe is popular for its variety of food, dance, music, musical instruments, festival and culture.
In Igboland, different festivities are celebrated. These festivals add great ambience and beauty to the tribe. It also strengthens the bond of unity of the Igbos. There are so many interesting facts about the Igbo people and their celebrated festivals.
Do you desire to know the popular festivals that are being celebrated in Igbo land? This article contains the ten most popular festivals celebrated in Igbo land.
1. New Yam Festival
The New Yam Festival of the Igbo people (Orureshi in the Idoma area, Iwa ji, Iri ji or Ike ji, Otute depending on dialect) is an annual cultural festival by the Igbo people that is held at the end of the rainy season in early August.
Yam is a very vital food crop in Igbo land. The traditional Igbo society is mainly agrarian. Emphasis is placed on farming and the cultivation of sufficient food to last until the next food harvest. More still, greater emphasis is especially placed on yam cultivation. The traditional Igbo man takes huge pride in showing off his yarn barn neatly stacked with yam tubers from top to bottom. It signifies wealth and success.
The exalted role of first eating the new yam is, in many cases, the privilege of the oldest man in the community or the traditional ruler (referred to as Igwe, Obi, Eze etc., depending on the particular community). The ceremony holds at the traditional ruler’s palace or any other venue.
2. Ofala Festival
This is a major festival in some Igbo communities in Nigeria, marking the anniversary of the ascension of certain royalty. This is one of the popular festivals celebrated in Igbo land.
The Ofala is the high point of the Onitsha ceremonial cycle. This display of royal dances, tributes, parades and music running over two days, with the Obi of Onitsha as the celebrant of the spectacle is rooted in deep spirituality. The monarch has to fulfil certain obligations.
The festival marks the end of a period of retreat sometimes called Inye Ukwu na Nlo when the Obi remains incommunicado and undergoes spiritual purification for the good of the community. At the end of the week-long retreat, the Igwe emerges during the Ofala to bless his subjects and say prayers for the community.
3. Mmanwu Festival
Mmanwu is a traditional masquerade of the Igbo people of Southeastern Nigeria. They are performed only by males in exclusive secret societies and involve the use of elaborate, colourful costumes that are meant to invoke ancestral spirits.
The Mmanwu festival, which features large displays of masquerades from various communities performing together, is aimed at preserving aspects of Igbo beliefs.
Masquerades are associated with spiritual elements, as according to Igbo belief, they represent images of deities or sometimes even dead relatives. The identity of the masquerade is a well-kept secret and is performed exclusively by men. This is one of the popular festivals celebrated in Igbo land.
4. Iwa Akwa Festival
Iwa Akwa is an adult initiation ceremony that draws its origin from the Obowo local government area of Imo State. The initiation is also held in other neighbouring towns like Ihitte /Uboma, Ehime Mbano, part of Ahiazu Mbaise and other communities.
Iwa Akwa involves various social processes aimed at initiating the adolescents into manhood as well as bonding the members of the age grade across the entire hamlets of Ugbo.
The Iwa Akwa festival is one of the most cherished cultural celebrations of the Imo State. It is a ceremony considered very important.
Iwa Akwa (cloth-wearing) is part of the activities in which adolescents engage as part of the ceremonies that confer on them the status of adulthood. The initiation marks the passage of an adolescent from the social status of a boy child to the social status of an adult. This is one of the popular festivals celebrated in Igbo land.
5. Igu Aro Festival
Igu Aro festivals are celebrated in some of Anambra’s communities to flag off the annual planting season. Igu Aro Festival is one of the popular festivals celebrated in Igbo land.
The Aro festival also called the “Igu aro” is one of the most colourful and celebrated festivals in Umueri. The Festival has a prime position in the life of the people due to the economic happen attached to it. Because the Oracular and Prophetic utterance of the Priest depicts what would happen in a given year.
The Igu-Aro is celebrated to mark the beginning of a new year and to recognize and honour some deserving Nigerians and non-Nigerians. The festival is celebrated in a funfair with traditional and cultural events, including the organization of the Umunri colloquium.
6. Ekpe Festival
The Ekpe festival is very popular among the Ngwa of Igboland. It is also widely celebrated in neighbouring areas such as the old Umuahia and Owerri Provinces. As a festival, Ekpe is celebrated every year because it is an important cultural event in the life of the people being one of their Year Rites.
Ekpe is a mysterious spirit who is supposed to live in the jungle and preside at the ceremonies of the society. Members of the Ekpe society are said to act as messengers of the ancestors (ikan).
The Ekpe festival takes place on Eke day. It is preceded by a free-for-all night of dancing and rehearsals for drummers, dancers, chorus leaders and their choric groups. On Eke day, many choric groups perform, ranging from groups of elderly men or women to children’s groups. This is one of the popular festivals celebrated in Igbo land.
7. Inne Festival
Inne Festival is an occasion where all the titled chiefs of the town dress in the best of their chieftaincy regalia with a traditional dance group from their domains dance to the palace to pay homage to the king, Obi Nduka. This is one of the popular festivals celebrated in Igbo land.
It is a celebration of war and peace, and it features war dances, military-like parades, a reenactment of old battles, and other related events that spice up the annual event. although with a different name, the festival is also celebrated among the eastern Igbo, especially in Abia state.
This festival which is more popular among the Igbos of delta state is celebrated in most western Igbo communities.
8. Odo Festival
The Odo festival marks the return of the dead ( odo ) to visit the living in the northern Igbo villages of Nigeria. This is one of the popular festivals celebrated in Igbo land.
Among the Northern Igbo, this unique masked festival takes place every two years. Similar to most African cultures, the Igbo believe that “one`s dead are neither gone nor forgotten” and that they help the living by protecting them from evil spirits and foreseeing the future
The Odo masquerade festival holds symbolic relevance to the Ngwo people. Held in high esteem, it is the coming of their dead ancestors, to live amongst them for three months, after which they go back to the abode of the spirits. As is the practice in many parts of Igboland, ancestral spirits are highly revered.
9. Igwa Nshi Festival
Igwa nshi is a festival celebrated in Eke, Udi LGA of Enugu. it’s a celebration that reminds heroes of past victories against neighbouring towns, during the festivals villages that make up the town always converge at the village square with their drums to entertain the guest. the events last for eight days.
10. Ede Festival
Being one of the popular festivals celebrated in Igbo land, Ede festival also called Ede aro festival by the abagana people of Anambra state is an annual cultural festival celebrated mostly by the Igbo people of Anambra and Enugu State. celebrated during the harvest of cocoyam.
This festival is held at the Afor market square every last Afor market day of the year in which cocoyam is celebrated.
The celebration of these and many more Igbo Festivals make the tribe unique and strengthen their unity and beliefs. There are more than ten festivals in Igbo land, but these ten popular festivals celebrated in Igbo land mentioned above enhance the uniqueness of the tribe.
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