Nuakhai (ନୁଆଖାଇ) is the most important social festival of Sambalpur. It is a festival related to the harvesting of paddy. Generally, it takes place in August and September. Preparation for this festival started at least 15 days before the commencement of the festival. All houses are cleaned properly and marketing was done in these 15 days. In this festival, the first grains of paddy are cooked into various dishes and offered to the local deities. Then the above mentioned sacred offering is distributed to the younger members of the family by the eldest member of the family. People in the community meet and greet each other. Young members seek the blessing of the elders for happy and prosperous lives. It is a festival of community, which is celebrated by both rich and poor (Hindu) families alike with pomp and grandeur.
Pushpuni(ପୁଷ୍ପୁନି) is an annual festival observed by the people of Western and Southern Odisha. This is observed on Purnami or puni in the local language (Full Moon) day of the month of Pousa or Pus in the local language (November/December). It derives its origin from the age-old agrarian culture of the land. It is an annual occasion wherein the families of the farmer celebrate their annual harvest of paddy. This festival is also seen in the rest of the Indian region. The people of this area, irrespective of their economic occupation celebrate this festival with great pomp and splendour.
Makara Sankranti (ମକର ସଙ୍କ୍ରାନ୍ତୀ) is celebrated on the 14th of January every year, though the date might shift by day in some years. In Western Odisha, it is celebrated a bit differently. People go to different temples and offer a special Prasad (offering) to God and Goddess made up of Rasi (Sesame seed) and Gud (Jaggery). They have a strong belief that on this day visiting temples reduce their ‘Paap’ (Sin) that they might have committed knowingly or unknowingly. Also, Makara Sankranti symbolizes the beautiful bond of friendship. On this day best friends perform some rituals to get the blessings of the Lord. After the completion of these rituals, the friends address their friends as ‘Makara’ which means beloved friend. There is a belief that, if anyone performs this ritual on this day, then their friendship(ବନ୍ଧୁତା) last forever.
Bhai-Juntia is mostly known only in the region of Western Odisha. It is celebrated on the Maha-Astami day of Durga Pooja. It is a ritual of fasting, observed in front of Goddess Durga, the whole day and night by sisters, for the wellbeing and long life of their brothers.thers.
This is also a ritual of fasting observed by mothers for the well-being and long life of their children in front of Lord Dutibahana.
It is the marriage ceremony of God Siva and Goddess Parvati. Shitalsasti is a carnival of folk dance and music along with decorated stands of God and Goddess. People from all walks of life participate in this carnival in large numbers. Artists from different states take part in the carnival and make it a colourful extravaganza.
Besides the above festivals, other religious festivals are also observed. These include Janmashtami, Ganesh Pooja, Saraswati Pooja, Deepawali, Shiv-Ratri, Dola-Jatra, Durga-Pooja, Ratha Yatra etc.
Shiv Ratri Mela at Huma attracts a large number of devotees from different parts of the Sambalpur region.
On the occasion of Makara Jatra, a fair is held at Themra of Sambalpur. The most popular festivals celebrated by Muslims are Id-Ul-Fitra, Id-Ul-Juha and Muharram. The Sikhs are also celebrated the birthday of Guru Nanak.