The Oromo People Celebrate Irreecha Festival Amid Pandemic


The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot of things around the world. Things are not as normal as they used to be. For example, events that would gather a large crowd of people are now having few countable heads observing social distancing and wearing masks. Besides, there are events that authorities have even canceled to curb the spread of the coronavirus. However, the Oromo people celebrate Irreecha Festival despite the situations at the moment.


Recently, the Ethiopians marked their Irreecha festival in the middle of this crisis and it was not as usual as it has been.


What is the Irreecha Festival?

Irreecha is a thanksgiving event of the Oromo people who celebrate it to thank God for the blessings they have gotten. People mark the festival annually at the starting of Spring, the new period after the dark, and the rainy winter period. Festival goers celebrate the thanksgiving festival at holy water bodies across Oromia and Hora Harsadi. At the lake, the people dip the green grass and flowers they are holding and sprinkle themselves.

Last year, celebrations took place in Addis Ababa for the 1st time in over 100 years. People also celebrate Irreecha around the globe where diaspora Oromos live. The Oromo people see the rainy winter period as the time of facing challenges. The big rain results in floods that may affect people, livestock, crops, and people’s homes. Families and relationships will go through a hard time during the winter rain period as they can’t see one another.


The Oromo people mark the festival to also welcome the new period of abundant harvests after the difficult season. The Irreecha event creates and strengthens the social bonds between people.



Who are the Oromo People?

The Oromo people are a Cushitic group local to Ethiopia. They speak the Oromo language as their vernacular. This group represents over 30% of the population of Ethiopia.


The Oromo were the main influence in the northern region of the country during the Zemene Mesafint era.

2020’s Irreecha Festival Celebrations

The Oromo landed on the capital to celebrate the yearly thanksgiving event. They wore face masks in accordance with the government’s directives. The celebrations took place last week and the crowd was not larger than 5000 people due to political unrest and the crisis.


While at the festival, authorities apprehended some people and even accused others of planning terror attacks.

Edelawit Alemayehu, a festival goer, says:

“The reason there are few people this year is that it is better for our health and peace. And for that reason the only people invited are the ones observing the celebration. That way people can protect themselves from coronavirus while celebrating the holiday. We are observing the holiday respecting the government’s directives.”

Normally, the festival has large crowds of people but this year only a few people attended it.


COVID-19 Stats in Ethiopia

According to the health data of the country, Ethiopia has recorded over 76,000 cases of coronavirus. Moreover, there are over 1200 deaths related to the virus.



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