Insights of the 2014 Irreecha festival
By Daniel Dormeyer
When they left from Addis Ababa early in the morning of Sunday October 5, the two Europeans, James Cator from England and Daniel Dormeyer from Germany, accompanied by two Ethiopians, Minassie Alemayehu and Haile Mekonen, did not really gauge the significance and importance of what they would experience when attending Irreecha in Bishoftu, Oromia regional state, around 45 minutes south of the capital.
With almost one third of Ethiopia’s population, the Oromo constitute the largest ethnicity in Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa.
Cator and Dormeyer had just arrived, excited about a country charged of history, culture and noble values, and willing to overcome waves of preconceived ideas about Ethiopia.
The season of blessing and love
Established by Oromo forefathers, Irreacha (also called Irreessa) takes place annually throughout Oromia and amongst Oromo communities abroad on the first Sunday of last week of September or the first Sunday of the first week of October according to Oromo time reckoning (Dhahaa). Bishoftu hosts the major gathering of a festival believed to be one of the largest in Africa.
Known as Oromo’s Thanksgiving to their God (Waaqa) for his goodness over the past year, Irreecha marks the beginning of a new lunar calendar and a seasonal change from winter to spring, and more particularly the end time of starvation (Gadaa Belbaa), disunity, chaos (Mormor), and the auspicious occasion to wish plentiful harvests in the upcoming year.
After a pleasant drive through enchanting though unexpected landscapes on the uncrowded highway in the wee hours of the morning, during which they wondered about a dead hyena and the probability of getting hit by a car, the multicultural group of friends finally reached Bishoftu.
Bishoftu means “the land full of water” in Oromiffa language. Indeed, the main ceremony would take place at the Lake Hora Arsadii. In fact they reached sacred ground, where Oromo people believe God will grant all their wishes.
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