Easter is one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar. It is also one of Nigeria’s most popular public holidays.
|2020||10 Apr||Fri||Good Friday|
|13 Apr||Mon||Easter Monday|
|2021||2 Apr||Fri||Good Friday|
|5 Apr||Mon||Easter Monday|
Easter is a joyful occasion commemorating Christ’s victory of death and his ascension into heaven to take his place on the right hand of the father – it is also a time of feasting, singing, dancing, and drumming.
In many ways Easter celebrations in Nigeria are like those in other parts of the Christian world. However, there are also some festivals and celebrations held that are unique to Nigeria. Some of those celebrations combine the pre-Christian practices of honoring dead ancestors along with the worship of the resurrected Christ. Good Friday is observed with sombre, prayerful gatherings at local churches. Some of the Easter Sunday celebrations see people take to the streets in colorful traditional costumes dancing and singing songs of joy, happiness, and salvation. The festivities have a very distinct West African flavor.
Only about 40% of Nigerians are Christians. They are primarily from the Igbo and Yoruba people. While there are Christians living throughout the country, the majority of them live in the southern part of Nigeria. Hence, the livelier Easter celebrations take place in the south of the country. They include song and dance, all-night vigils, and sunrise services.
The 8 days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday are known as Holy Week. They include Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Gloria Saturday. That week is also called the Passion of Christ. It comes at the end of a 40 day period dedicated to fasting, prayer, penance, and contemplation known as Lent. Easter is a moveable feast. It does not fall on the same date each year. The First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. established Easter Sunday as being determined by the lunisolar calendar. It is held on the first Sunday after the new moon on the March equinox.
For Nigerian Christians, Easter observances starts in earnest on Palm Sunday. Early in the morning on Palm Sunday men women, and children gather ta pre-dawn mass. The mood is somewhat somber. The ministers talk about the sacrifice Christ made for the church. They remember the believers that faced persecution, arrest, violence, and imprisonment in the early day of Christianity. The Palm Sunday service last about four hours on average. When the service is over, the believers stream out into the streets waving homemade palm branches, and dancing and singing. People run and walk for miles. Holy Week has begun.
Easter celebrations are very important to Christians in Nigeria. There are no Easter eggs or bunnies. Instead, Easter is a time family members travel from far and wide so the family can be together to celebrate the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Families gather together, pray, and remember the sacrifices of Jesus throughout Holy Week. Everyone is expected to make it home by Good Friday to attend church together. Christian families dress in black and spend the entire day in church on Holy Saturday.
On Easter Sunday the sound of music fills the air. Drums, kalimba, cymbals, and other instruments make a joyful noise on to the risen Christ. Millions of men, women, and children all dressed in white parade through the streets expressing their joy and thanksgiving for the risen Lord. Worshipers gather together and share food and drink, and love for each other. On Easter Monday, some families celebrate at home while others fill the churches. There are also fairs and festivals. The redeemer lives.