Festivals in Ghana are annual or biannual event celebrated by different tribes, towns in various parts of the country in commemoration of a past event or in recognition of some personalities. A notable feature of the Ghanaian society, and one that is of great interest to travellers, is the enormous number of traditional festivals that take place in various parts of the country throughout the year. This makes for an all year round celebration of festivals which are different from each other in their meanings, history and activities undertaken. These festivals make known some common qualities and beliefs of the Ghanaian society.
Through these festivals, the people call to mind their ancestors and ask for their protection. Festivals are also held in order to purify the whole state so that people can enter the New Year with self-belief and hope. Therefore, the unique culture of Ghanaians cannot be without the numerous but different festivals in the country.
Most traditional festivals are celebrated once a year and in the same location. They usually span a period of one week, with the last but one day being the most publicised. Some are also characterised by a ban drumming and noise making in the period immediately preceding the festival. In most traditional areas, members of the community also embark on a cleanup exercises before the celebration of the festival. Those who absent themselves for these cleanups are sometimes fined, to serve as a deterrent to others.
Festivals in Ghana are celebrated for several different purposes; however, these could be broadly categorized under the following themes:
Celebrating the farming season
Some festivals, especially those of the northern region of Ghana are celebrated to mark the beginning of the farming season. Most farmers believe that the success or otherwise in the yield of the crops is dependent on God or gods or ancestors; so they start by asking for the blessing of God or gods for more rain for their crops. They are also occasions which serve as a platform to unite all farmers as they move into the farming season. Examples are the Kakube and Kobina festivals of the upper west Region.
There are other festivals that are celebrated to mark the end of the farming season. This is occasioned by the bringing together of various farm products to show appreciation to God or the ancestors for a successful farming season. Sacrifices are also offered to the gods of the land in order to ask for their intervention in the next farming season. During such occasions various neighbouring communities, especially paramount chiefs are invited to share in these great celebrations. Example is the Yam festival celebrated in the northern region of Ghana.
Other festivals are celebrated in Ghana in order to bring together members of a town or village who are travel from outside and within Ghana to reunite with the families. Most indigenes use it as an opportunity to find life partners. They are also occasions to reconcile differences, quarrels and disputes among groups or individuals. Most notably is the famous Kwehu festival which comes with a phenomenal paragliding event every year during the Easter season. This festival also brings together visitors from all over the world to experience this terrific activity in the country.
Rembering the gods and ancestors
The majority of festivals are also celebrated in remembrance of the gods and the ancestors of the traditional area. Most traditionalists in Ghana are of the conviction that the gods and the ancestors are alive and need to be recognised as such. As a result, sacrifices are made in a bit to show appreciation to the gods of the land for protection them from hunger, feud, sicknesses and other calamities. Examples are Adae kese, Fetu Afahye, Kundum, Apoo, and Fire festival.
The last of the categories are religious festivals which are celebrated by religious groups in remembrance of their Prophets or Messengers. There are others that are celebrated after the end of spiritual exercises like fasting or a special prayer season. Examples include the Damba Festival which is celebrated by the Muslim sect to mark the birth of Prophet Mohammed each year and the Idri Fitri which is also celebrated by the Muslims to mark the end of the fasting season.