Irreechaa Birraa is a celebration that repeats once in a year-in birraa and involves special activities or amusements as it has a lot of importance in our lives. It symbolizes the arrival of spring and brighten season with their vibrant green and daisy flowers.
It’s a day all Oromian’s celebrate and cherish due to our ties to our root: Oromo Identity and country. It’s a time for reflection, celebration and a good connection with our best heritage.
Theme: A Year of Sacrifice
This year’s Oromian Irreechaa Festival is going to be bigger and better than ever, with a whole theme park devoted to diverse Oromian cultural Identity. The theme of this national Thanksgiving Day is “A Year of Sacrifice ” in which it aims to celebrate Irreechaa festivals as a medium for bringing all Oromias together to remember those who are paying sacrifice for Oromo freedom and to promote our tradition and religion in society, to create public awareness where Oromo cultural and religious issues will be discussed, to provide a better understanding of Oromo culture and history, to pave the way for promotion of the Oromo culture, history and lifestyle and to celebrate Oromo Irreechaa, a national Thanksgiving Day.
Irreechaa: a moment of performing home in exile
According to Tsegaye Ararssa, Irreechaa means a moment of performing home in exile. “For the Oromo Diaspora the Irreechaa moment is a moment of performing home in exile. It is a longing for home. As such, it’s a site of struggle, a site of the agon, a site of imagining home. it is a way of homecoming. It’s a way of becoming what we would have been. Irreechaa is a moment of re-enacting life in its fullness, in all its colors and brilliance, and in its infinite beauty as a treasure. It is a celebration of vitality and life in the past, the present, and the future. Above all, it’s thanksgiving. Even in the midst of the festivity, it is a moment of thinking (thinking as thanking), and a reminder of the need for a grateful reflection as a way of life.”
Irreechaa also called Irreessa, is Thanksgiving holiday of the Oromo people in Oromia, east Africa. The Oromo people celebrate Irreechaa to thank Waaqaa (God) for the blessings and mercies they have received throughout the previous year. The thanksgiving is celebrated at the sacred grounds of Hora Harsadi (Lake Harsadi), Bishoftu, Oromia. The Irreechaa festival is celebrated every year at the beginning of Birraa (the sunny new season after the dark, rainy winter season). Irrecha is celebrated throughout Oromia and around the world where diaspora Oromos live especially North America and Europe.
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 Birra (the season after winter in Oromoland), 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 Birra. Some disease types like malaria also break out during rainy winter time. Because of this, the Oromos see winter as a difficult season. However, that does not mean the Oromo people hate rain or winter season at all. Even when there is shortage of rain, they pray to Waaqaa (God) for rain.
The Oromo people celebrate Irreechaa not only to thank Waaqaa (God) but also to welcome the new season of plentiful harvests after the dark and rainy winter season associated with nature and creature. On Irreechaa festivals, friends, family, and relatives gather together and celebrate with joy and happiness. Irreechaa 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 Belbaa – the Dark Time of starvation and hunger- was established on the 1st Sunday of last week of September or the 1st 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.
The event and its celebration is a symbol of unity in which various organisations and groups come together not only to celebrate but also to initiate and to work together as a team.