Along the Gulf of Guinea lies beautiful Ghana in West Africa. Just like any other African country, the nation has its culture, tradition and practices that differ from one ethnic or religious group to another. Each year events are held in various parts of the country to celebrate the heritage of Ghanaians. Which are the best festivals in Ghana?
Last year, just like any other year, some colourful festivals in Ghana took place. Some were intriguing and erupted with remarkable historical and cultural propensity. Art, music and food celebrations had exciting rare beats, great street tastes and creative dynamism! Below are our top picks of the best events in Ghana.
Best festivals in Ghana
There over 70 ceremonies celebrated in the country every year. Such events instil spirituality of citizens, consecrate communal and family bonds not to mention extolling beautiful cultures. Each one of them has its purposes, and so it is wise to know the importance of these galas before getting down to the Ghana holidays 2019.
Importance of festivals in Ghana
Below are some of the reasons people celebrate these events:
- Purification of the gods: Important rites are done, including the cleansing of old stools and so on.
- Development planning: The events are also used to plan development projects in the area since most citizens will attend.
- Thanksgiving: The supreme God is thanked for guidance, protection and food. Other lesser gods might also be praised.
- Dispute resolution: Family and individual level disputes might be solved for peaceful co-existence.
- Tourism promotion: Many ceremonies attract tourists to the country. Through this, Ghana can earn foreign exchange.
- Maintain culture: Most of these events preserve the cultural heritage of the involved groups.
- Political and national significance: Leaders and prominent people are invited to speak about various policies and programs.
Types of festivals in Ghana
Ceremonies held in the country can be classified into the following:
- Commemoration of the farming season
- Commemoration of migration
Christians and Muslims in the country have different celebrations during the year.
List of festivals in Ghana
Below is a listing of various ceremonies in the country according to the above classification. So shall we get started?
Cultural galas in Ghana
The following are the best festivals in Ghana and their ethnic groups. We have listed them according to their occurrence months for smooth flow.
January 1. Fao - Navrongo
People and chiefs observe fao from the Navrongo in the upper eastern region of the country. The ceremony is held annually in January.
February 2. Dzawuwu - Agave
It is celebrated by the Agave people in the Volta Region. Dzawuwu is just an annual thanksgiving ceremony.
March 3. Ngmayem - Krobo
Ngamyem is one of the yearly, traditional festivals in Ghana. It is mainly conducted by the Krobo people and involves thanksgiving. It is celebrated in Odumase and Somanya in the Eastern Region. It commemorates plentiful of millet harvest, which is referred to as “Ngma.” The Krobo also give thanks to God for protection.
April 4. Bugum Chungu - Dagomba
Classified as the first Dagomba ceremony in the year. It is celebrated in the Dagomba Lunar Year’s first month. Dancing ziem (a dance style for the tindaamba), and playing gungong are some of the main activities here. People dress like warriors and use torches. Muslims in the state do not partake in this festival as they associate it with Satanism.
May 5. Kpini Chungu - Dagombas, Basaris, Kokombas, Nanumbas, Mamprusis
Kpini Chungu means Guinea Fowl and is a minor cultural gala celebrated after Damba in the northern region. Naa Zangina is said to have initiated the ceremony.
June 6. Aboakyir (Deer Hunt) - Efutu (Winneba)
This is a bushbuck hunting gala celebrated in the central region of the country. On the first day, two warrior groups take part in a hunting trip. The earliest hunters’ troop to catch a live bushbuck present it to the chiefs and are declared the winners. The animal is then sacrificed to the Gods.
July 7. Adae Kese - Asante
This is a critical gala among the Asante people of Ghana. It glorifies the Asante kingdom achievements. It was first observed after the war the Ashantis underwent to have their independence. They fought against the Denkira at Feylase. It coincides with yam harvesting season hence it was nicknamed the yam custom. It is celebrated between July and October according to the Akan’s calendar. However, some observe it in January.
August 8. Homowo Festival - Ga
Homowo is one of the biggest and the grandest gala in the country. It happens right in the capital, Accra, every August. It originated from a season of despair as a result of fame, followed by enormous yields of food and fish. The chiefs of the Ga community sprinkle kpokpoi while people sing. Libations are poured, and litanies said to the gods to facilitate another sound season.
9. Kundum - Nzema
Kundum, as one of the harvest festivals in Ghana, takes place as from August to November and is celebrated in the Western Region coastal area. Beginning from the west, Nzema community people move from Takoradi to nearby towns at a week’s interval. Rituals are performed and prayers for good harvests made. Dancing and drumming are featured in prominently.
10. New Yam festival - Igbo, Ho
Yam is held at the end of the rainy season around August. It is also practised in Nigeria by the Igbo community and other West African countries. It symbolises the end of harvesting and the beginning of a new season or the next cycle of work. The Igbo and Ho are primarily agrarian and mostly depend on yam to make their central cuisine.
September 11. Ohum - Akim
This festival is usually held on a Tuesday or Wednesday in either September or October. The dates depend on Ohumkan festival month. Before the gala, a 2-week ban on making noise is imposed. It is mainly celebrated to give thanks to God for plenty yam harvests and ask for his favours in the coming season.
12. Fetu Afahye - Oguaa
Fetu Afanye is mainly celebrated by people and chiefs from the cape coast in central Ghana. It is held on the first Saturday of September annually by the Oguaa people. In their history, there was an outbreak of a strange disease and many people were pronounced lifeless.
Elders prayed to the gods to help them get rid of the ailment. Hence it is celebrated to cleanse the town and prevent the chance of another epidemic disease befalling the community.
November 13. Adae - Akim, Asante, Akwamu
Adae is one of the most critical Akan festivals in Ghana. It involves worship, invocation and propitiation of ancestral spirits. Traditional leaders enter the stool house and pour libations and foods to the ancestors on behalf of their people.
As the term suggests, the ceremony is usually a day of rest. Hence, work on such a day is forbidden. Ritual drumming is used to announce events while invoking the spirits of ancestors who were once drummers.
14. Fiok - Busa
It is celebrated annually by the Sandema ethnic group in the upper eastern region of the country.
Farming season festivals in Ghana
Here are the farming season festivals:
Kakube is celebrated by the Nandom people in the upper western region. It is meant to show gratitude to the lesser gods for their guidance and protection throughout a specific farming season. It marks the end of farming and the beginning of a new work cycle. This is when people rekindle their relationships and also exhibit their rich culture and traditions.
The main aim of this celebration is to give thanks to the gods for a bountiful harvest. It is usually conducted in September by the Dagaaba community in the upper western region. The 3-day fest features in eating, drinking and dancing.
Migration festivals in Ghana
Migration festivals include:
New Juaben people commemorate this feast in the eastern region of the country. They do so to mark the epic journey ancestors went through from Juaben in Ghanaian Ashanti region around 135 years ago.
Celebrated on the first Saturday of November, Hogbetsotso is one of the ewe festivals in Ghana. It is observed by chiefs and Anlo people in the Volta region. Various towns and villages such as Keta, Vodza, Dzita, Abor, Anloga, Kedzi, Whuti, Tegbi, and Afladenygba host the celebrations. A peacemaking section is included where all the disputes are settled down, and an amicable solution found.
Religious festivals in Ghana
Also known as Resurrection Sunday, this is a Christian holiday that commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as described by the New Testament. It is proceeded by lent, a period of 40 days of fasting, penance and prayer.
Most Christian churches refer this holiday week to as a Holy Week which includes Ash Wednesday, Mundy Thursday, Last Supper and also Good Friday. The dates for this celebration fall between March 22 and April 25.
This is one of the most famous festivals in not only Ghana but also the entire globe. It is held on December 25 annually and remembers the birth of Jesus Christ. Millions if not billions of people observe it worldwide, and it is regarded as a central feast to the Christians’ liturgical year. The day is a public holiday in almost all nations.
This is a bushbuck hunting feast that is observed by the Winneba in central Ghana. The institution of the gala was to remember the migration of the Winneba people from north-eastern Africa in Timbuku town, Sudan. The people believe that a god called Out protected their ancestors through the journey from all the dangers. The mature bushbuck captured by the hunting groups are sacrificed to this God as a sign of appreciation.
4. Eid al-Adha
Also known as the festival of the sacrifice, Eid al-Adha is considered holier than any other Islamic holiday. It honours Abraham’s willingness to give out his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. This is seen as an act of obedience to His command. Before the father of faith could sacrifice his son, God gave him a goat to in place of Isaac. In commemoration, an animal should be butchered and then divided into three parts. One is given to the needy, the other to relatives and the third kept for home.
5. Eld al-Fitr
Popularly known as the feast of breaking the fast, Eid al-Fitr is a holiday celebrated by all the Muslims not only in Ghana but also the entire world. It marks the end of the month of fasting of Ramadan. In this month, no one is allowed to fast. The festival takes place for one to three full days. Specific prayers are nominated to be cited on this gala. As a charity obligatory, money is given to the needy and the poor before performing the prayer.
Observed by the Ashanti once in every six weeks. It is next to The National Day celebrations importance. Personal or communal ancestors are honoured. A gathering occurs and drumming, dancing and singing conducted in an orderly manner. Abosom (a lesser god in the Akans traditions) is acknowledged via food offerings such as mashed yams and hard-boiled chicken eggs.
On this day, the king of the Ashanti meets his chiefs and subjects at the Manhyia Palace courtyard. The golden stool is displayed, and people usually visit the place to sing and dance in large numbers. People are given a chance to shake hands with the king.
7. Bakatue festival
This means opening of the lagoon or draining of the lagoon. The festival is celebrated in commemoration of the foundation of the town of Elmina by the Europeans.
Other significant celebrations in Ghana
Other important celebration in the country include:
1. Damba festival
Damba is celebrated by chiefs and people from Nalerigu, Tamale and Wa in the upper west and Northern Region of Ghana. In Dagbani, it’s called Damba, Damma in Mampruli and in Waali, Jingbenti. The primary purpose of the ceremony is to mark the birth and naming dates of Mohammad. However, other practices, such as the glorification of chieftaincy and non-Islamic motifs, are conducted.
Observed by chiefs and citizens from the Eastern region of the country, Odwira festival is celebrated annually every September. It commemorates a historic victory over people from the Ashanti tribe in 1626. Jamestown residents in Accra also mark it as they have a long association due to intermarriage with the Akans.
The Ada people and chiefs commemorate this gala in Dangbe East of the Greater Accra region. It is held annually on the first week of August and remembers the achievements in settlement wars ancestors fought in the area. The chiefs are entertained by a local dance known as Kpatsa.
Different festivals in Ghana are held a specific culture or tribe annually to celebrate various occasions and reasons. They all have backgrounds relating to the history of the culture in question. This could be anything from hunger, stories, goods, stools, and so on.