Nigeria has one of the most ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse populations in Africa. And possibly the only festival that is celebrated across ethnic lines is New Year’s Day, celebrated on the first of January each year.
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Despite the fact that New Year’s Day is celebrated throughout the country, it is treated differently among different cultures. In some cultures, prayers are offered at midnight on the 31st of December. People gather in churches and mosques, praying for the year ahead.
In other cultures, it is a day to offer good will and wishes to each other. Some celebrate with traditional local drum music to songs of hope. It is customary to visit those who have offended you and let them know they are forgiven.
Some churches require that their members fast throughout the month of December, although most only require three to seven days of fasting. Masquerades are also common from midnight on 31 December to the morning of New Year’s Day as a form of ritual cleaning and blessings.
The Throwing of the Banger is another tradition on New Year’s Day in Nigeria. This is similar to fireworks found in other areas of the world. It is often young people who throw the bangers rather than adults. Gifts are exchanged, usually a gift of cash, food or drink.
Throughout Nigeria, New Year’s Day is a time to purchase clothes and sandals for children and to exchange gifts with friends and family. It is also a time for travel, whether within Nigeria or to foreign countries.
New Year’s Eve in Lagos
Lagos is the largest city in Africa and is the commercial capital of Nigeria. Many Nigerians in Lagos spend New Year’s Eve at clubs on Victoria Island and other areas. Some offer free champagne for the evening while others feature top artists to entertain for the evening.
At Bar Beach in Lagos, there is a New Year’s Eve countdown each year which begins around 7 December and culminates at midnight on New Year’s Eve. There are fireworks, live music and concerts.
Separation from Christmas
For many years, Nigerians associated New Year’s with Christian festivities due to its proximity to Christmas. Over the past few years, however, Muslims and other religions began to separate New Year’s Day from Christmas, a celebration that is predominantly Christian. Today, all religions in Nigeria celebrate New Year’s Day, even though not all cultures and backgrounds celebrate in the same manner.