In many countries of Africa traditional thanksgiving ceremonies are organized in each country with different cultural contexts. When Europe is still in the Dark Ages, Africans were conducting a colorful passionate and heartfelt thanksgiving celebration spiritually outsmarting the ‘civilizing mission of the European colonizers.
Irreechaa or Irressa also known as Irreechaa Melka and Irreechaa Tulu is a traditional Oromo thanksgiving celebrated every year at the bank of a river in the case of Irreechaa Melka and on a hill top in the case of Irreechaa Tulu.
While Irreechaa Melka is celebrated right at the end of the regular rainy season, Irreechaa Tulu is marked in the Ethiopian spring or Birra.
Irreechaa 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, livestock health and peace among other things in their communities.
To date, Irreechaa continued to be celebrated annually at Hora Arsedi close to Bishoftu town about 45 kms, from Addis Ababa and this year it is marked in Addis Ababa for the third time. The people of all age celebnrate the festival attired in their traditional white cultural dresses which depicts that Irreechaa 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 thanksgiving to the.
Irreechaa is a platform of peace, love and unity where prayers and thanks are offered to Waka .
Irreechaa is not only celebrated to thank God but also to welcome the new season of plentiful harvests after the dark and rainy winter season.
In thanksgiving-Irreechaa, spiritual leaders and the Abbaa Malkaas (lineal chiefs of the areas) are at the top hierarchies. The spiritual leaders give religious instructions and directives of the where-about and the time of the implementation of the rituals.
Furthermore, in the Irreechaa 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 Irreechaa 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 Irreechaa 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 Irreechaa 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, this annual event is observed 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.
Irreechaa Tullu is the thanksgiving ceremony that is performed at the top of mountains or hills during dry season. It is performed at the beginning of the spring season usually in March.
Despite the explanations provided, some may still think that Irreechaa is one version of idol worship but the practice on the ground does not show any level of worship let alone idol worship. Irreechaa in a nutshell is one way of cultural thanksgiving event that could be separately registered as another Ethiopian Intangible World Heritage.
This year Irreechaa is celebrated at a historical occasion on which a new democratic government is established in Ethiopia while the united struggle against terrorist TPLF and the proliferation of internal and external conspiracies defending the unity, peace and territorial integrity of the country.