Historical Background: These festivals are usually celebrated to commemorate important landmarks in the history of the people as thanks-giving or to seek divine protection and favor or to observe a traditional customary practice which is normally done annually a notable one is Dipo, an initiation rite by the people of Krobo in the Eastern Region. Some landmarks include victory in war, migration and founding of settlements. Traditional funerals and naming ceremonies also form an important part of communal festivities in Ghana.
Characteristics: Traditional festivals in Ghana are mostly characterized by rituals such as pouring of libation and slaughtering animals more often sheep and rum to pacify or honor the ancestors and the Supreme Being of the people. The rituals which are in many cases carried out in private usually precede the main public events are merry making with sharing of fun; food and drinks and many more amidst music and dance. In some communities you witness variety of procession led by chiefs and Asafo (traditional soldiers) groups through the principal streets. Cultural performances are showcased with indigenous music and dance by the various social groupings in the community.
Dress Outfit: While the chiefs don bright glamorous cloths and smocks, the Asafo groups or the military wing of the traditional setup puts on war dresses which are often dull colors mostly brown and black and seemingly dirty. The festivities are normally climaxed with a durbar with chiefs, elders and traditional stakeholders dressed colorfully in their Africa traditional regalia. In some cases a thanks-giving church service is held the next day to round-up the celebration. The chiefs are decorated in gold and other expensive ornaments and often carried in palanquin. The youth on the other hand like to be in western-style attire and wide range of clothing tastes.
Significance: Festivals in Ghana are mainly used as home-coming events for most citizens who live abroad or outside their communities, a time of joyous re-union to deepen existing friendships while new ones meet in a wonderful social networking atmosphere. Festive seasons are also used strengthen family ties and offers fertile grounds for finding marriage partners and courtship. The events are also used to raise funds and plan for development projects in the community. Very importantly cultural festivals have become means of preserving societal traditional and cultural heritage. Cultural festivals in Ghana help the people appreciate their culture and know their history seamlessly.
The festivals also offer conducive environment for dispute resolution and many families, clans, individuals and other bodies make use of these opportunities to resolve misunderstanding amongst them. The durbars usually attract political leaders and government functionaries who come to support projects, inform the people about government programs and policies and solicit the loyalty of people for various political agenda.
Probably the most important aspect of traditional festivals in Ghana is the ability to generate income for the nation as a whole through the flood of tourists that patronize these festivals. Direct revenue to the state by means of visas, airport charges and immigration levies and indirectly through expenditure by tourists in form of accommodation, food, souvenirs, entertainment and many more cannot be overlooked. This is why communities engrossed in disputes that prevent the celebrations at certain times should endeavor to set aside individual and sectional differences and forge ahead for unity to ensure the success and sustainability of these festivals.
Season: Travelers and tourists will find it interesting to note that festivals in Ghana are spread across length and breadth of the country over the year from January to December and in every month there is a popular traditional festival to catch.
Key traditional festivals in Ghana.
• Aboakyir Festival of Wineba in the Central Region
• Hogbetsotso of the Anlos at Anloga in the Volta Region (Migration)
• Fetu Afahye of Cape Coast in the Central Region ( Purification of the state )
• Bakatue of Elmina, Central Region (Welcome fishing season)
• Yam Festival of Asogli State at Ho in the Volta Region ( Harvest festival)
• Asafo Tufiam of Ada in the Greater Accra Region ( War festival)
• Odwira Festival of Akropong Awapim in the Eastern Region ( Harvest festival)
• Kundum Festival of Nzemas , Western Region.
• Fiok Festival at Sandema, Builsa Traditional Area, Upper East Region. (War)
• Dipo Festival in Krobo and Ada ( Puberty and Initiation rites)
• Bugum Festival in Dagbon, Gonja, Mamprusi and Nanumba traditional area.
• Homowo Festival, Ga traditional area. ( Harvest festival)