A visit to one of the numerous traditional festivals conducted across Zambia is a highlight of any vacation there. However, since timetables vary and not all events are conducted year, planning ahead may be difficult. If you do manage to go, be prepared for the heat, dust, and crowds (which will get more inebriated as the evening progresses) as well as interminable speeches from local officials such as the Assistant Vice-Secretary for Fertilizer Co-operatives in Rutungu Sub-Province. On the positive side, international visitors may typically sneak into the VIP areas, however picture permits may be required.
- Kazanga, Kaoma [Central Western Zambia] (June – August). The Kazanga ritual is Zambia’s oldest traditional event, with the Nkoya people celebrating it for almost 500 years. The event honors and preserves Nkoya music, dancing, and a variety of other traditional customs.
- Kuomboka, Lealui/Limulunga (Western Province, around Easter (March-April). The ceremonial migration of the Lozi monarch (litunga) from his dry season residence at Lealui to his rainy season palace at Limulunga is the most renowned of Zambia’s festivities. The litunga, dressed as a Victorian envoy, is escorted down the river by a fleet of boats, complete with musical accompaniment and, of course, plenty of food.
- Ncwala, near Chipata, 24 February. A Ngoni celebration honoring the first fruit of the season, during which the chief ceremonially eats the land’s bounty before spearing a bull and drinking its blood.
- Kulamba, near Chipata, August. The Nyausecret society dancers perform at this Chewa thanksgiving celebration.
- Likumbi Lya Mize (August)
This is a well-attended August event (The Day of Mize). This event takes place in Mize, Senior Chief Ndungu’s official palace, located approximately seven kilometers west of Zambez Boma. The Luvale tribe gathers to commemorate their cultural heritage, bringing exhibits of various handicrafts and livening up the occasion with traditional singing and dance as the leader conducts court. Senior Chief Ndungu’s official residence is Mize. Local artisans exhibit their work as Makishi dancers reenact legendary events from Luvale folklore.
- Livingstone Cultural & Arts Festival – This event, which began in 1994, brings together traditional rulers from all of Zambia’s regions, as well as tourists who are permitted to learn about their tribe’s culture. This event brings together musicians, artists, poets, and playwrights.
- Shimunenga is a ritual in which people pay respect to their ancestors. On weekends in September and October, the ritual takes place on a full moon. This ritual is held in Malla on the Kafue Flats by the Ba-lla tribe.
- Umutomboko – The Lunda people of Luapula Province hold an Umutomboko ritual in Mwansabombwe to commemorate the arrival of the Lunda and Luba people from Kola, now Congo DR, in Zambia. Mwata Kazembe, who performs a dance to mark the event, is the guest of honor during the ceremony, which takes place in July.
- January 1 – New Year’s Day
- March 9 – (Women’s Day)
- March 12 – Youth Day
- April 6 – Good Friday
- April 9 – Easter Monday
- May 1 – Labour Day
- May 25 – African Freedom Day
- July (first Monday) – Heroes’ Day
- July (Tuesday following Heroes’ Day) – Unity Day
- August (first Monday) – Farmers’ Day
- October 18 – National day of Prayers
- October 24 – Independence Day
- December 25 – Christmas Day