The Igbo New Yam Festival: A celebration to give thanks
The concept that yam is the king of all crops is rooted in ancient Igbo culture.
The “New Yam Festival” is held to thank the gods for a bumper crop. The celebration traditionally begins with a ceremonial roasting of whole yams by the king or titled elders of the community, as it is an important occasion in the calendar of Igbo people all over the world.
Following that, portions of the yams are first offered to the ‘Ahijoku’ (yam or earth gods) as a show of appreciation to God for his preservation and compassion in guiding them from lean seasons to a time of bountiful harvest; the rest is shared, and the community then can eat the new yam without provoking the gods’ wrath.
Despite the fact that the techniques and style of celebration vary from community to community, the key elements that make up the festival are the same.
The ceremony usually includes ceremonies conducted by the Igwe (King), or the eldest man, as well as cultural dances performed by Igbo men, women, and children.
It also includes contemporary shows, masquerade dances, and fashion parades, all of which are Igbo cultural practices.
The famed celebration, which takes place between August and October, is as old as Igbo heritage.
In current times, the festival not only provides a platform for calling home sons and daughters abroad to renew and reaffirm the link of brothers, but it also invokes feelings of belonging and encourages communal development planning.
It’s critical to stress that, contrary to popular misconception, the new yam festival has nothing to do with demonic rituals. It’s simply an Igbo method of thanking God for providing them with the opportunity to grow enough yams.
The Legend Behind The New Yam Festival
There was a period when a severe famine struck, according to an old Igbo legend. Eze Nri (King of Nri) thought about what may be done to improve the situation.
Later, he took the severe step of murdering his eldest son, dismembering his body, and burying the fragments.
Surprisingly, yam tendrils were seen growing in the same spots where the body’s severed parts had been buried. The Eze Nri dug up nice huge yams from his son’s burial six months later. He cooked it and found it to be delicious.
And it is still believed that this son of Eze Nri, known as Ahijoku, is the god of yam.
The consuming or dumping of old yams before the festival day is another fascinating part of the ceremony.
This is due to the concept that the New Year should begin with delectable fresh yams rather than the previous year’s dried-up crops.
The new yam celebration can be held in remote nations, such as Europe or America, as long as a high chief blesses the yam and Igbo inhabitants provide yam samples, as well as rich cultural dances and masquerades.
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