Irreechaa: For Peace and Reconciliation - ENA English
Irreechaa: For Peace and Reconciliation
By Girma Mirgisa Reba
Ethiopia is endowed with beautiful diversity and richness of cultures, which are celebrated at different times in the country. In particular, September is a month of festivals, holidays and celebrations around the country, among which, are Meskel festival and Irreechaa festival, thanksgiving of the Oromo people.
It also represents the start of Ethiopian New Year , symbolizing a stimulating time of change, thanksgiving and renewal, with the celebration of a series of cultural and religious festivals throughout the month. It is also a season when the landscape is dressed with the golden color of Ethiopian daisies, locally known as Adey Abeba flower.
Ethiopian New Year signifies a time of renewal, as the rainy season subsides leaving behind lush fields blooming with yellow daisies which adorns homes of many Ethiopians throughout September, and representing the spirit of peace, hope, harmony and love which come along the New Year.
Meskel, a UNESCO-inscribed intangible cultural heritage, is also celebrated by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians on Meskerem 27 and commemoration of the unearthing of the True Cross of Jesus. The Yo Yo Gifata of the Wolaita, Yo Masqalaa of the Gamo, Ya Hode of the Hadiya, Meskel of the Gurage, Hashu Masqala of the Kembata Tembaro, Gofa Gaze Masqalaa, and Mashqare-Kaficho, among others, adorn the month of September in southern part of the country by festivities and joy. It is also a time of attracting more tourists.
Similarly, the week-long Irreechaa cultural festival is observed by the Oromo people at the beginning of spring as a time of peace, reconciliation, unity and thanksgiving and forgiveness. Irreechaa is ‘Thanksgiving Day’ for the Oromo people after the end of the rainy season. It is celebrated for all things that Waqaa ‘God’ has done for people like bringing rain, peace, health, fertility, abundance, and for the beautiful weather they have cherished. In the course of Irreechaa festivals, thanks will be given for the achievements of last year and chanting for the hope and productivity of the future.
The Oromo people consider the winter; rainy season that lasts from June to September as the time of difficulty because the rainy season causes much muddy and the surroundings covered with heavy cloud. The heavy rains are also accompanied by thunder and cold weather. The weather conditions make life inconvenient for human movements. The heavy rains may cause rivers to over floods and family relationships to fall into difficulty. Therefore, the Irreechaa festival is all about rekindling about family connections, hope and joy. Friends and relatives who missed each other and the beautiful nature for a long time due to the rainy seasons long for getting together for the blessings and festival of Irreechaa by the Oromo people. It is also a season where sowed crops will blossom, get ripe and bear fruits.
Irreechaa is celebrated in different localities across Oromia and worldwide where Oromos are living. In particular, the Irreechaa festivity which is taking place at Hora Finfinne and Hora Arsadi in Bishoftu town, is a unique thanksgiving festival which brings together millions of people from all corners of Oromia and the country.
Irreechaa is a time for the Oromo people to celebrate their culture and traditions. People during the festival wear colorful traditional attires as well as sing and dance. It is one of the best festivities of Ethiopia where cultural singing and dancing are common. This grand festival attracts a large number of the Oromo people and people from all parts of the country regardless of age, religion, political affiliations and sex to come together and celebrate the festival with extraordinary love, chanting and unity. It is a time to honor nature and give thanks for the blessings of brotherhood.
The concept of peace and reconciliation are an important and integral part of the daily activities of the Oromo people. The Oromo preach peace and reconciliation and offer blessings during thanksgiving ceremonies of Irreechaa. The worldview of the Oromo is to forge unity, peace and social relations with other people. Peace is achieved when mankind is at peace with God, nature and all creations. According to the sayings of the Oromo“Peace is a gift from God; and peace is better than wealth.” This shows how much the Oromo people value peace.
The Oromo people love and respect their Creator, take care of nature, have a good relationship with God, and take the view that a person who does not have a good relationship with God will not have peace with man and other creatures either.
So, Irreechaa celebration is a manifestation where the whole walks of life practice chanting about peace and reconciliation. And all who participate in the chanting pray for the peace of the Earth, the country, children, elders, wish best for the present life and next generation as well as for livestock and all living things. Thanksgiving Day is where the Oromo people proclaim peace and reconciliation to all without revenge but with pure heart.
Forgiveness is central to the Ireechaa festival. Ireechaa is believed to be of great importance to those people who are able to give forgiveness for their intentional or unintentional grievances with other people.
The day of the festival is believed to be a day of peace, happiness, reconciliation, forgiveness and prosperity. Accordingly, before anyone celebrates Irreechaa, be they individuals or groups, resolving conflicts between them, reconciling, forgiving each other, establishing peace and reconciling with God are the preconditions to be observed. That is why the saying of the Oromo has it: “Yoo namni walitti araarame, Waaqnis namaaf araarama” which means “If a man is reconciled to a man, God is reconciled to man.”
In Irreechaa celebration where Oromo people celebrated this grand festival along with other nations and nationalities of this country. Since recently, not only Oromo people, but also different nations and nationalities in the country are celebrating the event together with their Oromo brothers and sisters. This in turn has been consolidating linkage among the nations and nationalities thereby strengthening the love, unity and harmony among Ethiopians. Such a festival serves as a significant forum to further exchange cultural values among the Ethiopian nations and nationalities.
Since the Gada System has been registered as one of the Intangible International Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, Irreechaa festival is also embraced by the international community at large as part and parcel of an ancient tradition of the Gada system. So, a lot is required from all stakeholders to promote this festival and exploit its tourism potential. It is also important to promote the significance of this grand festival at international level and get registered by UNESCO. The festival should also be celebrated in accordance with its values and assets and pass on to the next generation.