Irecha: Season of Peace and Thanksgiving

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BY SOLOMON DIBABA

In many countries of Africa and the rest of the world, traditional thanksgiving ceremonies are organized  with different cultural contexts and paraphernalia. Unlike in Europe, Africans were conducting a colorful passionate and heartfelt  spiritualism and thanksgiving celebration spiritually outsmarting the ‘civilizing mission of the European colonizers.
Irrecha or Irressa also known as Irrrecha Melka and Irrecha Tulu is a traditional Oromo thanksgiving celebrated every year at the bank of a river in the case of Irrecha Melka and on a hill top in the case of Irrecha Tulu. It is an apolitical cultural celebration that is marked among the Oromo of Ethiopia. This year guests from Kenya are going to join their Ethiopian brothers and sisters to mark the annual festival of Irrecha. Tourists who attended the Meskel festival have another opportunity to also observe the cultural show at Irrecha
While Irrecha Melka is celebrated right at the end of the regular rainy season, Irrecha Tulu is marked in the Ethiopian spring or Birra.
Irrecha is based on the traditional thanksgiving event to the Waka or Wakayo who is believed to create the heavens and the earth. The Oromos thank the Waka for good harvest, promotion of family human and soil fertility and livestock health and primarily for peace in their communities.
 As it has been reportedly celebrated among the Oromos for thousands of years, the traditional  cultural celebration  of Irrecha certainly precedes the introduction of institutionalized religions like Christianity, Islam and other religious institutions in the country.

 To date, Irreccha continued to be celebrated annually at Hora Arsedi, Bishoftu town, about 45 kms, from Addis Ababa and this  year it is marked  in Addis Ababa for the third time. Men, women and even children are attired in their traditional white cultural dresses which depicts that Irrecha is a celebration of peace. Led by the Aba Gedas and the Aba Melakas  Oromos carry bunches of fresh green grass and majestically march to the riverside or lake accompanied with traditional songs, dances and ululations which clearly depicts  thanksgivings to Waaqa (God).

Irrecha is a platform of peace, love and unity where prayers and thanks are offered to Waka . Irrecha is not a forum of political agenda.

The Oromo celebrate Irreecha not only to thank Waaqa but also to welcome the new season of plentiful harvests after the dark and rainy winter season.

In thanksgiving-Irreecha, the Qaalluus (spiritual leaders) and the Abbaa Malkaas (lineal chiefs of the areas) are at the top hierarchies.  The Qaalluus give religious instructions and directives of the where-about and the time of the implementation of the rituals.

Furthermore, in the Irreecha ritual ceremony, the Abbaa Malkaas and Abbaa Gadaas have vital roles. They lead the participating communities who follow them carrying bunch of green straw and daisies in their hands praising, blessing and praying to Waaqa in their songs. They order the participants what to say in the praise and prayer.

Ornamented with white sparkling cotton costumes and turbans the men hold spears and a special stick that was designated by the Gada system.

 During the Irrecha ceremony, Women sing ‘Maariyoo… Maareyoo… meaning your mercy on us and are decorated with Caaccuu (beads of different colors), traditional costumes and Siiqqee (stick traditionally handled by Oromo women). The men also hold a traditional stick called haroresa as they chant the Ireecha song with women.

After soaking the fresh lavish grass and the flower into the lake water and splashing the participants, the Abbaa Malkaa, Abbaa Gaddaas and Qaallus bless the participants and make speeches on rules and regulations newly declared at the Gada handing over ceremony or assist to recall the preexisting laws.

At the end of the Irreecha Malkaa celebration, all participants sing together “Irreechoo yaa Irreecha Malkaa Roobaa fi Nagaa……” to mean Thanksgiving at the river for rain and peace. All singing this go back to their villages.

Moreover, the Oromo People celebrate this event to mark the end of rainy season, known as Ganna, which was established by Oromo forefathers, in the time of Gadaa Melbaa in Oromia. The Day of Gadaa Melbaa – was established on the Sunday of last week of September or the Sunday of the 1st week of October according to the Gadaa lunar calendar has been designated as National Thanksgiving Day by modern-day Oromo People.

Irreecha Tullu is the thanksgiving ceremony that is performed at the top of mountains or hills during dry season, bona in Afaan Oromo. It is performed at the beginning of the spring season usually in March.

In a nutshell, Irrecha is one way of cultural Thanksgiving event that could be separately registered as another Ethiopian Intangible World Heritage.

This year Irreecha is celebrated with full optimism on bumper harvest during Meher, the Ethiopian spring season. Anthropologists,, sociologists and historians from around the world are expected to attend the Irrecha for research and amusement. The contributor of this article feels that the celebrations of Irrecha must be properly recorded to pass the event to the present and coming generations as an important Ethiopian cultural heritage.