Calabar Festival

Cross River State as a flagship of tourism destination in Nigeria is endowed with several cultural festivals such as the Marina Water and sports, New Yam Festivals, Wrestling Festivals, Obudu Mountain Race, Boat Regatta, Ekpe Festival, Laboku International festival and the Cross River State Christmas Festival; out of these, the Cross River State Christmas Festival happens to be the most popular and widely celebrated in Nigeria.

The Calabar Festival started ordinarily as Christmas festival and initially, celebrations at the festival were similar to Christmas celebrations elsewhere in the Christendom to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, but with traditional African touch, a display of masquerades and traditional dances, and heavy consumption of food and drinks. The Christmas celebration climaxes on 24th, 25th and 26th of December. In Calabar, a variety of indigenous masquerades, including Ekpe, Nnabo, Tinkoriko, Okpo and dances such as Abang and Ekombi display around the Bassey Duke Effigy close to Watt Market, at Eleven-Eleven and many other locations within the town. But in 1999, the celebration took a dramatic form. It was the turn of a new millennium and the new civilian administration in the state, led by Governor Donald Duke decided to make Christmas celebration an international festival sponsored by the state and other concerned entities. Fireworks heralded the beginning of a new millennium in the city of Calabar and across the state. A tradition of celebrating Christmas with pump and pageantry had begun and was to get better every passing year.

By the year 2005, the period of Christmas festival was extended to 32 days, beginning from the first day of December to the first day of January. This particular year, public and civil servants in the state were granted a leave from work to enable them enjoy the holidays. There was no work in public offices throughout Cross River State for 32 days. Every day was filled with a major celebration or recreation activity that would appeal to all classes of people; the children, youth and adults.

In what has become an established tradition, Calabar Festival celebration starts on the 1st of December with the city walk campaign against HIV/AIDS. In the event, the organizers thought there was a need to ensure the fitness of the citizens as well as to regenerate the awareness on HIV/AIDS for the season. This activity also commemorates the World AIDS Day declared by the United Nations and observed globally as an annual event. The city walk in some cases serves as a test run for Carnival Calabar since it goes through the same route and covers the same 12km distance.

As part of the Calabar festival, several shows and entertainment activities are held every evening and late into the nights at a number of venues such as; the Millennium Park, The U J Esuene Stadium, the Cultural Centre Complex, Marina Beach and Resort, Tinapa and the Botanical Garden. No day is wasted, no dull moments. Every show is free for all classes of audiences.


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