The Irreechaa celebration: an expression of joy for the lives we live, as it is a time for mourning for the lives that were lost
The following is the speech made by Jitu Dhabessa on this year Irreechaa celebration at Wilson Botanic Park on 7 October 2018.
Before we begin, we’d like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people as the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we are gathered and pay our respects to their Elders past and present. Sovereignty was never ceded and the process of colonisation and genocide that began over two centuries ago continues to this day.
We’d also like to acknowledge our brothers and sisters who were killed during Irreechaa 2016. I’d like to thank them for their commitment to our culture and our people, and it continues to break our hearts that their lives were cut short by an oppressive regime. The Irreechaa celebration is as much an expression of joy for the lives we live, as it is a time for mourning for the lives that were lost.
As many of you know, Irreechaa is a celebration where we give thanks to Waaqa or God for the seasonal transitions. Our Indigeneity is rooted in a connection to our land and nature, and all that the Earth gives to us, and so, we thank the Earth for providing us sustenance and shelter, for giving us rain when we face drought and the sun when the rain threatens our crops and cattle. This festival is an acknowledgement of this interconnectedness between us and the land, and of the fact that as long as we protect our land, the land will protect us.
Irreechaa is a moment to reflect on what we are thankful for, our family, our friends, our community, health, and our culture. But more importantly, for me it is a moment of resistance, of solidarity and healing. It is holding onto a culture that has been and continues to be vastly subjugated, and healing the wounds opened by those who aim to erase us, our culture and our being from both Oromo and global historiography.
We celebrate this event as a show of solidarity and unity, a demonstration of strength regardless of differences in religion and politics. It is an understanding that unity does not mean unanimity, and it gives me hope that in the face of oppression and conflict, we will have each other.
Before I finish, I’d like to address the Oromo youth and tell you I admire you all for your commitment to your culture and you inspire me to be more involved and give more to the culture. I know you do a lot for the community that is often uncredited so I’d like to thank you and give you credit for all you’ve done, are doing and continue to do. This is on my own, and the community’s behalf that we are proud.
(A4O, 5 Onkoloolessa 2018) Irreechaa 2018 gaafa Onkoloolessa 7, bara 2018 biyya Australia kutaa Victoria keessatti kabajama.
(ENA, Addis Ababa October 01/10/2018) The Irrecha festival, which was celebrated yesterday, is “unique among Oromos,” the celebrants said.
Benya Waqoya, who came all the way from East Wollega to attend Irrecha festival, said this was second time to celebrate the festival.
“The last time I attended the celebration in 2016, it was awful. People were killed in a stampede on the shores of Lake Hora Arsedi. Due to this, some of my friends did not come to attend this year’s festival.”
For Benya, Irrecha is unique and a special occasion for joy, peace, and harmony. So he came with few friends.
“This Irrecha as you can see is peaceful and orderly. We are celebrating the day with our brothers and sisters of other nations, nationalities and peoples in the country”, he stated.
The Sidama, Burji, Alaba and Gamo are among the nationalities that attended the celebration of Oromos this thanksgivings day.
Calqaba Gudeta on his part said “this Irrecha is very attractive and joyful. This Irrecha is not tense and people are not worried that a disaster may happen unlike the celebration of the last years.”
Celebrating the day with other nations and nationalities has pivotal role as it helps the people to know one another, he said, adding that Irrecha would thus open opportunity for all to enhance social relations and cultural exchange.
The other participant, Afework Malefasa said this year Oromos have celebrated the day not only with Oromos, but also persons from other nations and nationalities.
This is a showcase for other nations and nationalities how much Oromos are committed toward strengthening unity and solidarity by respecting their values, he noted.
Abdella Debisso from Shashemene, said this Irrecha is unique as it brought Oromos living abroad together so that they could participate in the festival, visit relatives and families.
Dessalegn Cinqiso from Sidama nation said I came here for the first time to attend the Irrecha festival.
“I have waited for a long time to attend this beautiful ritual. Today, I got the opportunity to celebrate this day with my Oromo brothers and sisters. I think it would good example for other nation and nationalities in creating unity.”
He thanked the Oromos for their warmly welcome and making the festival peaceful and colorful.
The other participant from Hawassa city, Amanuel Enderase said “I am very happy and delighted to attend this unique festival of the Oromos.”
Irrecha is a thanksgiving day to Waaqa (God) for ending the rainy season and ushering in the sunny days.
(Addis Ababa September 30/2018) Irrecha festival has been colorfully celebrated this morning on the shores of Lake Hora Arsedi at Bishoftu town.
Millions of Oromos from various zones of Oromia region, Ethiopian Diaspora Oromos converged over the lake to mark the thanksgiving day.
Prominent Aba Gedas, elders, religious fathers, qerroos (Oromo youth), invited guests were present on the occasion which was celebrated peacefully.
Irrecha is one of the indigenous ancient ceremonial events taking place twice in a year (in spring and autumn). The open door festival brings millions of Oromos from different walks of life to pray and express their gratefulness for their creator, Waaqa.
(Addis Ababa October 01/10/2018) Oromo members of the diaspora community in Australia have expressed their delight in taking part at the Irreecha festival held yesterday after many years.
The diasporas, who have been living abroad from 10-25 years abroad, said it is a blessing to celebrate the festival with fellow countrymen.
Among them, Ejeta Uma said he has been living in Australia for 25 years and could not visit the country due to fear of political persecution by the government.
Following the recent call of Prime Minister Abiy and witnessing the progress in the political sphere, however, he came back to visit his homeland.
“I always wished to celebrate Irrecha. I had nostalgia for the traditional songs and the different cultural attire. Now, my dream is fulfilled and I am extremely happy”, Ejeta added.
He noted that the community should protect their cultural festival and the government needs to expand and make the shores where Irrecha festival is celebrated safe and comfortable to the celebrants.
He was fascinated by the discipline of the large gathering and the performance of the participants attending the celebration.
“Irreecha depicts our unity to the nations, nationalities and peoples of this country as well as the world”, he pointed out.
Gemechu said, “When we celebrate the occasion together, we share love and unity; and when we go outside of the country it is the only asset that we would share to others.”
(Bishoftu, September 29/2018) Various businesses in the town of Bishoftu have flourished as the town has engulfed with an influx of visitors across the country for the yearly Irreecha festival.
The businesses selling traditional clothes and goods as well as clothes and cap printed with different pictures is a lucrative business at this time of the year, as the town is visited by millions of people.
Today, the town is receiving its guests come from different corner of the country for the Irreecha festival to be celebrated on Sunday at Hora Harsedi.
Especially youths are walking in the town singing different traditional songs that depicts the Oromo culture.
The influx gives the opportunity for service providers and traders to be profitable.
Shimelis Nigusu is a resident of Bishoftu town and he engaged in selling of different traditional materials with his eight friends.
“We printed 2000 caps for this festival in addition to other things based on the interest of customers and the market is good and we feel very happy”, he said.
He expected to be profitable as the materials are wanted by the visitors.
Tilahun Abdisa, a taxi driver, is another resident of Bishoftu, who is busy transporting people at the eve of the celebration.
He even hopes that the demand will rise tomorrow as the people who headed to the lake where the celebration takes place.
“I am very happy to host the guests and help them show direction with the spirit of love and unity”.
He added that “I am eagerly waiting for this occasion”, many people entered to the town in the early morning and this is really productive”.
Rosemery Hotel General Manager Firew Kebede on his part said the Irreecha festival is bringing additional market for them.
“We are preparing for the festival in special way to host our guests and the overall condition is very interesting’, he said, adding all the hotel rooms are already occupied.
The General Manager hopes that the festival will be peaceful and colorful.
Some 1020 youth drawn from the entire Oromia regional state are working to ensure peace and stability at the festival.
Coordinator of the youth Lemma Gemechu said that the youth will be engaged in ensuring peaceful movement of celebrants in collaboration with the police as the town will host millions of people tomorrow.
Last year, some 400 organized youth had played key role in ensuring peaceful movement of the people in areas where the event was took place.
The Irreecha Birraa, one of the intangible heritages of the country, Thanksgiving Day of the Oromo, is going to be celebrated in the presence of a large gathering by Lake Hora-Harsadi in Bishoftu on Sunday.
Irreecha, a thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, celebrated every year at this time of the year at Hora Harsedi, a lake in the town of Bishoftu
(Addis Ababa September 28/2018) The Irrecha festival that takes place at the end of this month is a “gateway to happiness and bright days for the Oromo”, according to historians. For the Oromo, Irrecha is a thanksgiving day to Waaqa (God) for ending the rainy season and ushering in the brighter and sunny days.
In an exclusive interview with ENA, the history professor Tessema Ta’a of Addis Ababa University said Irrecha festival is the part and parcel of the Geda system.
According to him, “the Irrecha ceremony takes place when the rainy season subsides and the sky is clear. The people thank God for helping them come out of the dark rainy season.”
When the rains go, the rivers subside and allow people to cross and meet one another. So they greet one another and express their joy and happiness, the professor elaborated.
Professor Tessema noted that “Irrecha is one of the meeting places where the elders, the youth and children meet to express their happiness and thank God.
“I think this practice and principle of Irrecha associated with the Geda system has to be registered as a strong cultural heritage of the Oromo by UNESCO”, he underlined.
“Cultural heritages are documented and registered by UNESCO for posterity and the benefit of human kind,” the professor said, adding that “all of us to have work towards that and encourage the youth to know the indigenous system.”
“If they know their indigenous system they would understand the working system of the modern world very easily. They can easily transmit it. So, I think one has to know from where he has come? And where he is? And where he will be going?”, the historian expounded.
Professor Tessema pointed out that “Irrecha is not political. It is a time to seek social harmony, peaceful understanding, and giving thanks to Waaqa; and that has to be extremely peaceful and free from harassment.”
Speaking about the importance of Geda system to which Irrecha belongs, the professor noted that it has to be promoted as it is a world heritage in the first place.
“Geda is a compressive system,” Professor Tessema said, adding that the government has to understand that it is one of the most important elements in peace making and conflict resolution.
The historical and cultural aspects of Geda system are important for unity, integrity, and tolerance, and accommodate other members of humanity other than Oromos.
Author and Oromo historian Dirribi Demmise said Irrecha has value among Oromo communities in bringing unity, solidarity and reconciliation.
“Before they go to the rivers, they reconcile and make peace. It is a day of happiness among the Oromo communities. It is a day of peace and reconciliation with nature, God and the people, too” he stressed.
Furthermore, it also create opportunity to pray to God to make the year productive, children and cattle healthy, and people become prosperous and lead long life.
Dirribi said “Irrecha festival is where Oromos gather to sing, thank God with no gender and age difference. Everybody has equal right and respect to enjoy the unity.”
Describing the inscription of the Geda system as intangible cultural heritage a great opportunity in promoting the Irrecha, he said “I hope Irrecha festival will also be recognized by UNESCO within a short period of time.”
On this day (normally falls at the end of September or beginning of October), many Oromos come to the river or the sea or the lake with an outlet that has since long been chosen to be the place for such thanksgiving celebration.
Irreechaa comes on the following of Meskel, which comes in tandem with New year. September proves a month where cultural and religious festivals are celebrated one after the other. Hence Irreechaa is one of the jewels in the crown of September.
In the traditional religion of the Oromos, the spirit is the power through which Waqaa (The Almighty God) governs all over the world. Thus, Oromos believe that every creation of Waqaa has its own spirit.
Twice a year
Traditionally, the Oromo practise Irreechaa ritual as a thanksgiving celebration twice a year,on autumn and spring, to praise God for peace, health, fertility and abundance giving regards to people, livestock, harvest and the entire Oromo land.
Irreecha is celebrated as a sign of reciprocating God in a form of providing praise for what they got in the past. It is also a forum of prayer for the future. In such rituals, the Oromo gather in places with symbolic meanings, such as hilltops, riversides and shades of big sacred trees. Irreechaa is celebrated on Sunday that comes following Maskal, the finding of the True Cross. Irreechaa is one of the intangible heritages of the Oromo people. It is an open air festival where millions gather to thank “Waaqa “or God.
Oromo National event
Irreecha is one of the most colourful and beautiful Oromo National Cultural event that has been celebrated throughout Oromia. At State level Irreechaa is celebrated in Bishoftu Town in Oromia at Lake Hora Arsedi.
It is important to note the Oromos celebrate the Irreecha irrespective of their religious backgrounds. Whether they are Waaqeffataa, Christians or Muslims they participate in the festival.
On the festival Community leaders and Aba Gada’s praise God for the blessed transition from the rainy season which is normally considered gloomy to the bright and colorful season autumn. The costumes the Oromos put on in different designs lend color to the vibe of the festival. This is one of the things that make the ceremony worth attending.
Most of all, they believe that this spirit (through which Waqaa is supposed to govern all over its creature) wallows over the sea and the great rivers of our world. And also, they do believe that the peak of the mountain is holly in nature, and that it serves as a host to the spirit of Waqaa.
Thus, the Oromos usually go to the river or to the mountain during the time of their worshiping rituals, or during Irreessaa celebration. The celebration is an indigenous Oromo knowledge which has been practiced for centuries now.
The winter, rainy season
The Oromo People consider the winter rainy season of June to September as the time of difficulty. The heavy rain brings with it lots of things like swelling rivers and floods that may drown people, cattle, crop, and flood homes. Also, family relationship will severe during winter rain as they can’t visit each other because of swelling rivers.
In addition, winter time could be a time of hunger for some because of the fact that previous harvest collected in January is running short and new harvest is not ripe yet. Because of this, some families may endure food shortages during the winter. In Birraa (Spring in Oromo land), this shortage ends as many food crops especially maize is ripe and families can eat their fill. Other crops like potato, barley, etc. will also be ripe in Birraa. Some disease types like malaria also break out during rainy winter time. Because of this, the Oromos see winter as a difficult season. It does not mean the Oromo People hate rain or winter season at all. Even when there is shortage of rain, they pray to Waaqa (God) for rain.
The Oromo People celebrate Irreecha not only to thank Waaqa (God) but also to welcome the new season of plentiful harvests after the dark and rainy winter season associated with nature and creature. On Irreecha festivals, friends, family, and relatives gather together and celebrate with joy and happiness. Irreecha festivals bring people closer to each other and make social bonds.
Moreover, the Oromo People celebrate this auspicious event to mark the end of rainy season, known as Ganna, was established by Oromo forefathers, in the time of Gadaa Melbaa in Mormor, Oromia. The auspicious day on which this last Mormor Day of Gadaa Melbaa – the Dark Time of starvation and hunger- 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.
In Waqeffannaa religion thanksgiving-Irreecha, the Qaalluus (spiritual leaders) and the Abbaa Malkaas (lineal chiefs of the areas) are at the top hierarchies. In the Qaallu religio-ethics, the Qaalluus give religious instructions and directives of the where-about and the time of the implementation of the rituals.
(A4O, 7 August 2018) Ethiopia & the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) have signed a Reconciliation Agreement today in Asmara.
The agreement reached provides for termination of hostilities in the country.
In addition to that it provides for the OLF to conduct its political activities in Ethiopia through peaceful means.
The two sides also agreed to establish a Joint Committee to implement the agreement.
The meeting was also attended by Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu.
The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) was established in 1973 by Oromo nationalists to lead the national liberation struggle of the Oromo people against the Abyssinian colonial rule.