Ethiopia is well known for being the cradle of African civilization. Naturally, this makes it a top destination for travelers eager to explore unique local celebrations. One of the most interesting of those celebrated in the country is the Irreecha festival.
This article examines a little about what makes Irreecha an unmissable celebration in Ethiopia. It explains the key details about the festivity and also reveals the most important preparation tips before arriving.
What is The Irreecha Festival and Where is It Celebrated?
Irreecha is chiefly a thanksgiving festival celebrating the end of the winter and monsoon months in Oromia region in the south-central area of the country. During the months preceding there is cold weather and heavy rains. There is also an increased prevalence of diseases like Malaria which makes it more difficult to visit family and friends.
However, once this period of difficulty comes to an end and the harvest begins, it is marked by this festival of thanks by the locals. The celebration itself commemorates the arrival of Birra (the name for spring in the region) and blessings enjoyed by people over the past year.
Locals dress in traditional costumes and observe Irreecha with dancing, singing, and gathering together with relatives. A big part of the celebration involves going to the lakes around Oromia region and placing cut grass and flowers in the water to give thanks to Waaqa (the local name for God) for good fortune and prosperity over the coming year.
Irreecha is celebrated all over Oromia. However, the biggest single celebration takes place in Bishoftu town about 44km outside of Addis Ababa. The capital city itself also recently started playing host to this major celebration after 150 years of being absent from its streets.
When Do Ethiopians Celebrate Ireecha?
The festival takes place during October in the country it is one of the best times to visit Ethiopia weather-wise, as the weather is dryer than the monsoon months preceding. The average temperature is also a temperate 75ºF during the day and at night drops no lower than 50ºF.
Which Ethiopian People Celebrate Ireecha?
The main celebrants of the Ireecha festival are the Oromo people. They make up the biggest ethnic group in the country, comprising around 35% of the national population.
The Oromo are a multi-religious group with some being Christians or Muslims and others following traditional African animist beliefs. Most live in Oromia, however, there are also some living in minority communities in other regions.
How to Visit Ethiopia during Ireecha
Once in the country, there are a few logistical and safety tips to bear in mind. First of all, this can be a very busy time in big cities and towns where it is being celebrated. Make sure to leave yourself extra travel time if you need to use intercity public transport and to book accommodation well in advance before arriving.
The streets can also get very busy as thousands gather to mark the event. Therefore it’s important to remain aware of your surroundings and the level of crowding as you would at any big event in a foreign city like this.
It is also wise to check if you need any specific vaccinations before traveling to Africa. These should be acquired before arriving in Ethiopia and travelers should also ensure to visit with sufficient health insurance coverage, in case of issues and emergencies.
Visiting Ethiopia during Ireecha is unlike any other time of the year. It is a bright, colorful and truly unique cultural celebration. Remember, it is essential to hold a tourist visa before entering the country, however, it’s easy to apply online for an eVisa just a few days before traveling.