Tag Archives: Nigeria

Money Dance, Nigerian Wedding Folk Custom

“At weddings in our family and I know in most Nigerian weddings we throw large amounts of money at everyone it’s not even the married couple, literally everyone gets money thrown at them. We typically all stand in a circle and the elder members of the family will sometimes throw thousands of dollars each in the middle with bills ranging from singles to ten’s. My family calls it the money dance but I know some call it money spraying. This is pretty much to symbolize a showering of happiness and good fortune in their future lives together. It also shows how much the group cares for each other.”


Money throwing is pretty common at Nigerian weddings. My informant learned this from going to weddings in his family as a kid and young adult. My informant was born in Philadelphia but his parents moved from Nigeria with other family members and brought many of the customs with them, including this one. He said it his favorite part of going because who doesn’t love traditions that involve free money. 


Hearing this made me really want to implement this tradition in all weddings. It is a super cool Nigerian tradition that I had never heard being practiced in any other culture. I find it fascinating that so many different countries and cultures have very unique traditions when it comes to a wedding.

Nigerian eye twitches

BACKGROUND: My informant, CI, was born in the US. Her parents are immigrants from Nigeria. The following piece is a Nigerian superstition passed down from her parents to her. CI explained that this superstition has rung true for her in many of her real-life situations.

CONTEXT: This piece is from a text conversation I had with CI about her family’s beliefs.

CI: Idk how much text you need but a Nigerian superstition is that if one of your eyes twitches for an extended period of time it means that you will soon witness something of large consequence.

Me: Is it usually something bad?

CI: It could b good or bad or either. Like so many situations I’ve had point back to this.

THOUGHTS: The thing that struck me about this belief is its pure ambivalence. There is to be no fear or joy surrounding the eye twitching because the individual will not know if the predicted event will be negative or positive. I also think it’s interesting that the individual is more of a passive party in this belief. In many other cultures, I think it’s common for people to believe that after a certain sign something may happen to them or their family. But the way this is phrased suggests that the individual will only be witness to something of significance. It adds a layer of separation between the individual and the event.

Nigerian Thief Proverb


Stanley Kalu was raised in Nigeria. Since then, he and his family have lived in various African countries. He currently studies screenwriting at the University of Southern California. He is a friend of mine, and he has often told me stories about growing up in Nigeria. I asked him for folklore, and without even needing to ask for Nigerian folklore, he offered up several pieces, including two proverbs. When I asked why he gave me two proverbs, he said that his mother often said them to him, and that mothers and their proverbs are so infamous that there are meme websites dedicated to them that he visits when he feels homesick. Stanley provided the proverb in English.


Stanley: This is a great Nigerian proverb. “Every day is for the thief. One day is for the owner of the house.”

Owen: Could you explain what this proverb means to you?

Stanley: It means that while you can do all the crimes that you want, every day, one day you will get caught and you will get found out.

Owen: Did someone used to say this to you repeatedly?

Stanley: Nah, my Mom just said it one time.


This is a great example of a proverb that makes little sense to an outsider. When he told me the proverb, I could barely guess what it meant. It is his following explanation that is necessary for understanding. It was also interesting that I had to ask him for the explanation–he stated the proverb so obviously at first.

How the Tortoise Got Its Cracked Shell


“There is a lot of animal folklore in Nigeria. I used to hear this one story all the time when I was little. It goes like this:

There was once a great drought in all the land. So the animals gathered to try and make a plan. It was decided that the tortoise, due to his charm and manner of speaking, would fly up to heaven with the birds in order to bring food down. As he flew, he told the birds that at such times it is important to change your name. So he told them his name was “all of you.” They got to heaven (and the feast) and God said the food was for “all of you.” The tortoise gorged himself. The birds got mad and left, but the tortoise begged them to tell his wife to put soft things by his house so that he could jump and fall from heaven safely. The birds told his wife the opposite and the tortoise jumped and broke his shell.

I’ve heard that one a million times. There are many Nigerian folktales about the cunning tortoise.”


This story reminds me of many tales that revolve around how an animal or other natural phenomenon came to be. It is a way of explaining the world around us before science or other explanations came about to replace tales. The cunning tortoise is a recurring character in Nigerian folklore, representing craftiness and outsmarting others, often at his own expense.

The Significance of Yams in Nigeria


My friend grew up in Nigeria before coming to the US for college. He says yams are life in Nigeria.

Friend:“The yam is the staple food and therefore a measure of masculinity and wealth. If a family has a lot of yams, you’re rich because you can feed your family. This makes you a strong man. Yams are equated to life in Igbo culture. Nigeria is the leading producer of yams in the world, so of course they are a big deal to us.”

Me: Do you still have family who farm yams?

Friend: “My father does not farm yams, but my grandfather did, and his father before him. When my grandfather got married, he had to present his yams to my grandmother’s family to prove he could provide for her, which is a fairly typical custom in Nigeria.”

Me: Is there anything specific about how yams are farmed that makes them special?

Friend: “On some farms in Nigeria, the women aren’t allowed to go to the farm until harvest time. Then the women do all of the harvest work. It’s superstition I guess. There are many people today who still grow yams. Yams are featured at any big gathering or at any holiday meal.”


Analysis: Many cultures have some form of staple food. For the Irish, potatoes are an important part of sustenance, and therefore are a large part of how people live. Because of this, a simple food like a potato, or yam, can come to have symbolic meaning.  What a family produces in terms of yams, and how it relates to masculinity is extremely interesting, given that yams are an unpredictable measure of success. One year, the harvest could be plentiful and the weather perfect. The next year, however, bad luck could lead to very few yams. Another aspect of this folklore worth noting is that while the men do the initial farming, the women do the harvesting. Perhaps this relates to the hunter/gatherer trope, but a man’s worth relies on work which is half done by women.