Festivals in Ghana are large public affairs of great religious and social significance while ceremonies such as that accompanying birth known as "outdooring", are for family and friends. Neither festivals nor ceremonies in Ghana are specifically staged for tourists but are a part of the traditional culture and calendar of events.
Festivals are free for visitors, guests, and tourists and provide one of the best opportunities to know Ghana and Ghanaians.
Festivals are celebrated for several reasons and each festival has its own significance. Some festivals are celebrated in remembrance of the ancestors with the chief as the central figure and the living representative of the ancestral leaders of the group. Other festivals mark the harvest season and are thanksgiving in nature and sometimes signify the beginning of a New Year's celebrations. The festival ceremonies are centered on giving thanks to the special gods responsible for permitting successful crops. Some festivals begin the new fishing season/year with purification of ancestral shrines.
The prelude to most festivals is one of quiet meditation with the absence of dancing and drumming. During this period, the traditional priests, who always conduct the ceremonies, get themselves ready for their spiritual activities and attend to their shrines. The community is cleaned and given a festive appearance through communal labor. The roads and footpaths are specially cleared often amidst rituals.
Most festivals begin at each clan or family house, with the head of the family pouring libation in mourning for the dead. War drums, state drums, and talking drums keep vigil. This is followed by feasting and a durbar of chiefs, when tribal leaders/Chiefs and Queen Mothers parade in decorated palanquins, shaded by huge traditional umbrellas, and supported by drummers and warriors discharging ancient muskets.
In Ashanti for example, the Adae and Akwasidae festivals vividly bring the splendor of the Asante kingdom to life, when the Asantehene (Asante), adorned in all his gold regalia, comes out to receive homage from his people. The Asantehene's dancers, praise-singers and horn-blowers surround the King and his procession, in a never-to-be-forgotten spectacle.
This durbar may be under the ceremonial village tree, the decorated sports field, or the front of the King's palace where the chief sits in state and has his people pay homage. He also addresses his people using the occasion to talk about the agenda for development. The social aspect of festivals includes musketry, which is equivalent to the firecrackers of the US or Europe during traditional sporting events and general merrymaking. There are several outstanding festivals that attract visitors throughout the country.
These are traditional entertainment groups that go from town to town performing. These "concert parties" are musical comedies that combine humor and theatrical display usually personifying the 'villager' or some other character, his unsophisticated thinking, attitudes, and behavior. Some of these portray typical traditional Ghanaian life situations with extreme humor. The National Theatre in Accra and cultural centers in the various regions run very interesting weekly programs. Check from the offices of the National Theatre in Accra as well as the cultural centers for their schedules.