Today marks the beginning of a festival known as Irreecha, a holiday that is the equivalent of Thanksgiving. Celebrated at the end of September, Irreecha coincides with the beginning of a new lunar calendar and the arrival of spring. Its origins are rooted in the Oromo community, the observance is one that calls for gratefulness and mercies that Waaqa (God) bestows upon his children.

Irreecha is celebrated in Ethiopia on the grounds of Hora Harsadi (Lake Harsadi), millions of Ethiopians pray and give thanks for the abundances they received throughout the year. Irreecha is a reflection of the Oromo community, hayyuu (elders) take center stage and bless the people by passing on words of wisdom. The highlight of Irreecha is the dipping of grass inside water which signifies renewal and washing away bad spirits in order to receive the blessings of this world.

During the 2013 Irreecha celebration, a hayyuu made the following remarks to the throng of Ethiopians who gathered at Hora Horsadi to celebrate together:

Shall evil have no place among you?
Shall hate have no place among you?
Shall truth find you?
Is this your testimony before God?
Let peace be among all!
Let peace be among adults!
Let peace be among the youth!
Let peace be with the livestock!

Let us reflect on these wise words of elders and cast aside demons who preach hatred and divisiveness. Our country is going through a lot of challenges but we should all remember that we are humans first. No matter the language we speak or the religions we practice, we have all faced burdens in the past and we can only overcome and thrive in the future if we believe in inclusiveness.

After the benedictions are completed, celebrations kick off with women wearing Oromo traditional clothing and the men dressed in Kumaala and Bullokko. Irreecha is a celebration of life, one where love has no barriers and kindness is shared between family and strangers alike. The same way Spring brings new life after a season of tribulations, Irreecha is a moment of hopefulness and thankfulness for overcoming the challenges of the past.

“Baga furda (bacaqii) gannaa baatani booqa birraa argitan, akkasuma kan hortani horaattan mara wajjiin saddeetni sadeetaatti isiniif haa naannawu.” This roughly translates to Merry Spring and Thanksgiving. May Waaqa bless your wealth and belongings throughout the Gadaa cycle.”

Irreecha is a reminder for all Ethiopians that we are ONE nation with an amazing diversity of traditions and cultures. Though we might call our creator by different names, there is a connective nature to all religions that are practiced in Ethiopia. We are taught to love our neighbors and to be kind to one another, let us honor these tenets by honoring our diversity. We are a land of 105 million people with 88 communities, let us not turn this strength of our country into a weakness by bickering over our differences.

This wonderful video by Alemitu Sime is one that highlights the beauty of Oromo culture and the arrival of Irreecha.