Irreechaa is Thanksgiving holiday of the Oromo People in Ethiopia. The Oromo People celebrate Irreecha to thank Waaqa (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 Irreecha festival is celebrated every year at the beginning of Birraa (Spring), new season after the dark and rainy winter season. Irrecha is celebrated in East Shewa Zone 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, the 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 the 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 (Spring 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 Birraa. Some disease types like malaria also break out during rainy winter time. Because of this, the Oromos see winter as a difficult season. It does not mean the Oromo People hate rain or winter season at all. Even when there is a shortage of rain, they pray to Waaqa (God) for rain.
Irreecha not only to thank Waaqa (God) but also to welcome the new season of plentiful harvests after the dark and rainy winter season associated with nature and creature. On Irreecha festivals, friends, family, and relatives gather together and celebrate with joy and happiness. Irreecha 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 Melbaa – the Dark Time of starvation and hunger- 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.
In Waqeffannaa religion thanksgiving-Irreecha, the Qaalluus (spiritual leaders) and the Abbaa Malkaas (lineal chiefs of the areas) are at the top hierarchies. In the Qaallu religious-ethics, the Qaalluus give religious instructions and directives of the where-about and the time of the implementation of the rituals. Furthermore, in the Irreecha ritual ceremony, the Abbaa Malkaas and Abbaa Gadaas have vital roles. They lead the participating communities who follow them carrying a bunch of straw and daisies in their hands praising, blessing and praying Waaqa in their songs. They order the participants what to say in the praise and prayer.
In different words, the Irreecha Malkaa’s festival is celebrated every year at the beginning of Birraa (Spring), new season after the dark and rainy winter season at the bank of big rivers where the Oromos live locally. The Oromos carry straw, spices and traditional food called Bexille, circular bread like that of the Israelites’ bread for the Passover to the river and eat there. Such ritual ceremony is performed not only along the bank of a river but also around lakes and its vicinity. This Malkaa Irreecha Holiday is sometimes known as Ayyaana Birraa, the Spring Festival. It is the time when relatives, families, and clans cut apart by rivers and floods are able to meet. As a result, some still call it Xaddacha Saaquu, traditional court opening season since the judges could not sit in the court to see the cases during the rainy season.
After celebrating this locally, the Oromos from every corner of Oromia and other Ethiopians come together to the sacred grounds of Hora Arsadi (Lake Arsadi), Bishoftu, Oromia which is 45 kilometers South East of Finfinne (Addis Ababa). Irrecha Malkaa is celebrated nationally in Bishoftu, East Shewa Zone and around the world where diaspora Oromos and Ethiopians live especially in North America and Europe. Ornamented with snow-white interesting costumes, turbans, and hides of wild animals as well as holding spears and a special stick that bespeaks the Gada system, hundreds of thousands of celebrants from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, gather at Bishoftu, Hora Arsadi, to celebrate Irreecha festival.
Almost all celebrants from both genders carry in their hands newly cut green straw that bespeaks of fertility and soaks it in the lake water. The Oromo’s from different parts of the country for long meet flocking to celebrate and praise their creator for his blessings. Especially, the 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 Ireechaa song with women.