Nigeria the most populous country in Africa is ethnically, religiously and culturally diverse and has more than four hundred ethnic groups. As a result of this it becomes extremely difficult to refer to any particular religious or cultural festival to be representative of the whole country. The only festival that cuts across all ethnic, cultural and religious divides is the New Year Festival,traditionally celebrated on January 1st. New Year festival in Nigeria is celebrated with pomp and pageantry by all the people and it is the most celebrated among all festivals or religio-cultural traditions. New Year celebration used to be associated with Christian annual festival especially in the southern, western and eastern parts of the country where Christianity predominates. Lately, all otherreligious groups especially Muslims began to make New Year one important aspect of their festivals. This is due to two important reasons: the fact that all other religious groups have begun to sense that New Year is remarkably different from Christmas - a Christian annual religious tradition; and also due to the fact that Nigerians recently are now becoming more religiously sensitive - eachreligious tradition sees no reason why its members could not commemorate the New Year festival in its peculiar way and in its unique place of worship. New Year festival comes with many important features which are:
First and foremost, the New Year eve is treated differently among the different religious and cultural traditions found in Nigeria, but the important basic thing is that virtually all peoplesee it as a “Myth of Eternal Return.” According to Mircea Eliade, “The suspension of profane time answers to a profound need on the part of primitive man….a series of parallel conceptions relating to the regeneration of time and the symbolism of the New Year.” This period is marked by different kinds of religious rituals. One of such main rituals is to offer prayers at midnight of December 31st.People gather at churches and mosques, and these days at traditional local shrines at the stroke of the hour (12 midnight) and offer their prayers for a fruitful and lucky year ahead. Offering prayers is meant to be auspicious as it brings prosperity in the coming year. These prayers may take the form of what Victor Turner calls “Redressive Ritual.” By redressive ritual, it is meant a ritual ofreversing evil happenings, occurrences and attacks in the previous year; or restitution prayer, which has to do with confession and renunciation of the past misdeed sand sinful behaviors. Leading to what Nigerians call “New Year, New Revolution” or “New Year, New Resolution.”
Secondly, it is a time when people offer wishes and greetings to one another. Such ritual wishes or greetings range fromperhaps worldwide phenomenal sporadic and thunderous “Happy New Year” at the stroke of the hour, praying for success for one another in the New Year, and to singing and dancing to traditional local drums with different songs of hopes and of aspirations. Some certain individuals make it a point of duty to go and tell those who have offended them that they have been forgiven, and thereby couldcontinue with their former cordial relationships. In recent times however, certain Evangelical and Pentecostal/ Aladura groups of churches usually declare fasting for their members throughout the whole month of December (some are usually for only seven days or three days) preceding the New Year eve, coupled with intense prayers that would herald the coming of the New Year. This consecrated hour/day isnow also an integral part of Islamic doctrine. Among certain ethnic groups, masquerades usually come out during the midnight of December 31st till the morning of January 1st for ritual cleansing and blessings.
The third ritual stage is the “throwing of banger” which is the same thing as American huge Fire Works in commemoration of July 4-- the American Independence day. Banger throwing or...
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