Around 90 percent of Niger’s population is Muslim, and this influences the ceremonies and festivals that are celebrated throughout the year. For example, Ramadan and the associated Eid al Fitr are important Islamic festivals observed in Niger. The rest of the population follows the Baha’i faith, and Christianity, although the larger festivals in Niger will reflect traditional, indigenous beliefs, such as the Cure Salee (Festival of Nomads). Christian festivals are also observed as national holidays, such as Christmas and Easter.
Easter Monday is a national public holiday in Niger. Although Christians are a minority in the country, the government respects the beliefs of both Muslims and Christians since both holidays are observed nationally. Easter is usually April or May, according to the Christian Calendar.
Nigerien Independence Day
Celebrated on August 3 annually, this public holiday commemorates the country’s independence from France in 1960. Since 1975 it has also been conjointly celebrated as Arbor Day, where citizens are encouraged to plant a tree to celebrate their young country’s nascence, but also to combat desertification, which is a concerning environmental problem the country faces.
This is the largest traditional festival celebrated in Niger, where the Tuareg and Wodaabe people from the north gather in the town of Ingall to celebrate the end of the rainy season. It usually occurs on the last weekend of September, just as the rains are ceasing. Cure Salee translates as ‘Salt Cure’ from French (the official language of Niger). The clans gather at the salt flats and pools to refresh their cattle and goats in preparation for the dry season ahead of them. It is also a time of traditional courtship, and many weddings are held during this time. The government has been sponsoring this centuries-old tradition and now heralds it as a major tourist attraction.
Eid al Fitr
This is a Muslim festival held at the end of the 30-day Ramadan fast. Ramadan is usually held between September and November, according to the Islamic calendar. The most notable gathering for the Eid al Fitr festival is the horseman show and carnival at the Sultan’s Palace, in the desert city of Zinder.
Also known as Eid al Adha, this is an Islamic festival commemorating Abraham’s sacrifice. At this time the locals feast on goat or lamb in remembrance, and it is considered an important family festival in Niger. It usually occurs in December or January according to the Islamic calendar.