Irreechaa is the annual Oromo people thanksgiving day that celebrated every year in Birraa near the river bank or water and tree. Irreechaa is celebrated every year in September in Bishoftu Hora Harsadii and other Oromia major cities.
One of the distinct thanksgiving celebrations in the Oromo tradition is called “Irreechaa” or “Irreessaa,” which, by itself, means ‘green and fresh grass’ that symbolise fertility and flourishing life due to the bless and guidance of the Creator, Waaqaa. On this day (normally falls at the end of September or beginning of October), many Oromos come to the river or mountains with an outlet that has since long been chosen to be the place for such thanksgiving celebration.
In the traditional religion of the Oromos, the spirit is the power through which Waaqaa (The Almighty God) governs all over the world. Thus, Oromos believe that every creation of Waaqaa has its own spirit.
Most of all, they believe that this spirit (through which Waaqaa is supposed to govern all over its creature) wallows over the sea and 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 Waaqaa.
Thus, the Oromos usually go to the river or to the mountain during the time of their worshiping rituals, or during Irreessaa celebration.
Why Oromo celebrate Irreechaa
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 Harsadii (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 Birraa (the season after winter 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. 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.
Irreechaa Malkaa and Irreechaa Tulluu
The Irreechaa ritual involves the process of thanking Waaqa at various physical bodies he created, such as on mountains and by water bodies. Even if different Oromo groups celebrate Irreecha at a nearby water body close to their communities, millions of Oromo attend the celebration at Lake Arsadi in Bishoftu, about 45 km from Finfinnee, the capital city of Oromia.
There are two types of Irreecha: Irreecha Malkaa (Irreecha by a river (water body) also called Irreecha Birraa (Irreecha in the spring season); and Irreecha Tuulluu (Irreecha on a mountain) also called Irreecha Bonaa (Irreecha in autumn, which is a dry season in Oromia). Irreecha is not celebrated in ganna (summer), which is a rainy season in Oromia. During this ritual, almost all the worshipers carry green grass and flowers. Green grass, always an integral part of an Irreecha ceremony, is a sign of fertility and productivity in Oromo tradition.
The Oromo thank Waaqa for helping them survive the winter (rainy) season peacefully, for helping them grow crops for people and grass for cattle, for creating the birraa (spring) season, which is a harvesting season, for creating the autumn and winter seasons, and for creating everything in the universe. Upon reaching the lake, worshipers perform various rituals, such as immersing the green grass and the flowers they are carrying in the lake and sprinkling themselves as well as others around them.