The West African nation of Nigeria is comprised of between 250 and 400 ethnic groups, but 60 percent of the people belong to one of four main groups, the Hausa, Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba. Islam, Christianity and traditional African religions are practiced in Nigeria. Religion and other cultural beliefs influenced the development of the country's traditions. Some Nigerian traditions are commonly practiced throughout the nation, while other customs are only practiced by certain groups.
Egungun is a Yoruba tradition that commemorates the dead. Within the Yoruba culture, tradition teaches that each person has at least two souls, the individual soul, called "emi," and an ancestral guardian soul, "iponri," according to Motherland Nigeria.com. The iponri, as represented by artistic renditions created of cloth, returns during Egungun to dance, bless and sometimes correct members of the community. Only men participate in Egungun.
The New Yam Festival is celebrated by the Igbo. This traditional harvest festival is celebrated in August. The people dispose of any old yams the day before the festival. On the day of the festival, the oldest man in the village or the leader offers yams to the gods and then eats the first serving. Everyone joins in the feast, eating different dishes made with yams.
Weddings follow a formal introduction ceremony. At the introduction ceremony, which takes place at the bride-to-be's home, the groom and his family enter the home and show their respect for the bride's family by kneeling or prostrating themselves on the floor. They sit on opposite sides of the room, while in the center of the room sits the "olopa iduro," the spokesman for the groom, and "olopa ijoko," the spokesman for the bride. The olopa iduro offers a formal introduction of the groom's family and the proposal. After the bride's family accepts the proposal, special food is served to symbolize hope that the marriage will be fruitful and happy.
For the wedding, the bride wears jewelry made from coral beads, henna tattoos on her hands and feet, and a veil over her face. Her father escorts her to the church, and only after the ceremony is she unveiled. In some areas, the bride stayed in a "fattening room" for a period of time before the wedding, where she ate very well and emerged heavier than when she went in.
Names and Naming Ceremonies
Babies are named when they are eight days old, according to Yoruba tradition. Sometimes parents choose names that describe the events surrounding the child's birth, such as "Taiwo," which means "pre-tasted the world," a name given to the first twin; "Kehinde," meaning, "the one who lagged behind," chosen for the second twin; "Yetunde," "Yewande," or "Iyabo," given to a girl born shortly after the death of an elderly female relative, meaning, "the mother has come back"; and "Babatunde," given to a boy shortly after an elderly male relative has died, meaning, "the father has come back." During the naming ceremony, the baby is welcomed into the family with "ewi," a musical celebration in which a poet sings joyful songs and drums are played to herald the new arrival.
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images