Sidama Nation’s 2017 New Year To Be Celebrated On June 20th Followed by Cambalalla Festivity on the 21st June.
By Denboba Natie, June 19, 2017
Fichchee, among others is one of the most important cultural values and traditions inherited from ancestors that uniquely characterize the Sidama nation. Such a highly treasured cultural event has been celebrated in Sidama land for numerous centuries. However, there aren’t recorded evidences stating when the nation started celebrating it although the oral tradition passed from generation to generation states that it’s been practiced since time immemorial. Thus, the Sidama nation is one of the few nations in the world and may be the only nation in Ethiopia and in the horn to have its own lunar calendar.
As a matter of historical fact, the Sidama nation preserved the said cultural heritage, the Sidama nation’s New Year known as ‘Fichchee’ despite the depth and magnitudes of difficulties the nation is subjected to live under. Although a lot of the other Sidama nation’s noble cultural heritages were significantly eroded since the nation has lost its sovereignty to invaders since late 1890s due to imposition of their cultures and ways of life with direct and indirect coercions; the Sidama nation’s forefathers and mothers preserved the most important one with great deal of sacrifices whilst fighting back to maintain and inherit it to today’s Sidama generation. The Sidama nation’s new generation is inherited the said heritage for which it wholeheartedly thanks its forefathers/mothers.
II. Preparation in Sidama land to Welcoming Fichchee
Preparation to celebrate Fichchee in Sidaama land is underway despite the unfolding tragic injustices imposed on Sidama nation by denying its constitutional rights to regional self-determination; the quest that remains unanswered & keeps boggling the mind of the nation at large. Besides, the Sidama nation is prepared to gather in its capital city ‘Hawassa’ also known as Adaare to celebrate Fichchee as the nation has done in the past thousands of years.
Although the current regime uses the Sidama capital for its southern coercively amalgamated 56 nations and nationalities as administrative capital, the Sidama nation’s New Year ‘Fichchee’ is geared to be celebrated in its Hawassa Gudumaale. The nation is prepared to celebrate with high spirit of nationhood and renewed sense of mourning for hundreds of innocent Sidama civilians massacred by the army ordered by tyrant Ethiopian regime led by late PM Meles Zenawi and his successor Hailemariam Desalegn and the southern surrogates such as Shiferaw Shugute.
This years’ Fichchee is to be celebrated by all Sidamas with spirit of defiance, indefatigability and renewed sense of determination to demand for regional self-determination, freedom and liberty.
III. Fichchee’s night and Cambalalla’s Series of Festivities
On the evening of Fichchee, during the early hours of Cambalalla’s morning-the elders of the community begin the occasion with conventional blessings, i.e, “Cambalaalla! Iille,Iille”, meaning Happy New Year, Happy New Year to all congregants and to the nation as a whole!! After lengthy blessings sprinkling pure water to all corners of the house from the container of sanctified water using the leaves of hyssop in their twigs; the elders also bless the meal and scatter a pinch from the top of the meal significantly symbolizing the relevance of sharing with ancestors and nature that produced the meal.
After the said blessings, home prepared food known as ‘Shafeeta’ in Shafeetate xiilte (in extra-large clayware container) specially prepared meal for Fichchee festival, made of Sidamas’ staple food known as ‘Waasa’ made of false banana -with spiced butter (Kodhdhishamino burinii qansonii Shshaaffetta) will be served with milk. This is the delicacy the people of the Sidama nation enjoy beginning on Cambalalla morning that lasts for few weeks. Children, boys and girls are given great respect during this time. They are all dressed up with newly purchased and decorated clothes depending on the purchasing power of households; however, all must get the new clothing on Cambalalla day.
In the early hours of Cambalalla day, all members of the neighbors are expected to pass through two tree brunches brought together and tied on their tops further symbolizing the passage from the old year to the new. This is also prepared by elders as part of its ceremony.
During this ritual, adherence to strict, but very positive and non-discriminatory hierarchical rules of respecting older people based on their ages and passages through certain initiations such as ‘Luuwa’ (generational cycles which prepare the Sidama men for adulthood) by implication for certain positions of respected adulthood in the community. In Sidama culture, the meal is also being served turn by turn based on age and an earned status in the community. In Sidama’s egalitarian culture, there isn’t status by birth; it should be earned by hard work.
When such rituals take place simultaneously over the entire Sidama region, the ceremony of an official beginning of the festivities of Cambalalla is honored in such a manner that all peoples of the Sidama feel together when they assume its beginning all over the districts based on previously selected date. In this case, this year’s (2017) Sidama New Year ‘Fichchee’ is decided to take place on the 20th of June 2017 which is the official eve of Cambalalla that is going to take place on 21st of June 2017.
The ceremonial celebration of the Fichchee on actual Cambalalla’s early morning comes to an end with the blessing and good wishes of the Sidama elders-for the New Year by saying “Fichchee Jeeji, Fichchee Jeeji’; this literally means ‘Long Live Fichchee’, let the New Year bring peace, prosperity and health for the nation strongly symbolizing longevity for Sidama as a nation. By doing so, the Sidama elders pass over the ritual of Fichchee from generation to generation. The Sidama nation had exercised these since time immemorial; therefore, it’s believed to be one of the few oldest lunar calendar years in the world.
IV. Deciding the date of Fichchee
As explained above, ascetic groups of elders, after consulting Ayyaaantto (Sidama traditional astronomers) the groups of wise Sidama men strictly studying the movements of moon, stars and others solar systems and their significances; they declare the good date for Fichchee and Cambalalla. This is being communicated to wider Sidama society after confirmation.
In older days, the Sidama forefathers/mothers communicated the Cambalalla with the public through announcements made at market places known as ‘Laalaawa’ across the nation. At present times however, Fichchee and other public issues are being announced by Furra radio-the only Sidama language broadcasting station (which was inspired and created by Sidama intellectuals supported by only international NGO which is currently dismantled by the regime- in Sidama land in 1998). The said radio was created to serve the Sidama nation; however, it’s entirely serving the authorities through which they disseminate their political propagandas with objectives of intimidating and suppressing the nation.
Starting on the afternoon of Cambalalla (the day after the Fichchee) there will be series of local and sub-regional Gudumaale’s where people gather together to celebrate with dances of various categories such as Qeexalla (chants of men breading their arms shoulder to shoulder; and Faarro for youth boys and girls paired up separately in 10s, 20’s 30s to play with opposite sexes. Women play their games known as Hano with adult men as the festivities progresses for days.
V. Meat, quarrel, and any forms of disputes are prohibited during Fichchee and Cambalalla!
During the Sidama New Year Cambalalla festivities, no meat is allowed to be prepared and consumed either on Fichchee and Cambalalla days. If there is a meat at home, it will be thrown out of the house before the eve. No meat will be kept at home! Moreover, cattle enjoy special treatment on Sidama’s New Year day. As mentioned above, no curse and no punishment are allowed on them. They are instead allowed to graze on the new fields of grass paddocks that were kept closed for months for this particular day, and for festivity of the weeks to follow. This reveals the nobility of Sidama nation’s culture and the level of attachment and affection the nation has to its cattle, nature and natural beauty. This sets a good example if the world allows Sidama nation’s traditional way of life to be adopted as it would be a better place for us all human being and nature alike. If there is any dispute involving serious ones, the Sidama people forgive each other and welcome their new year leaving their grievances behind for good, to maintain the coherence and unity of the nation.
VI. A Continued Camballala Festivity
On the afternoon of the first day of Cambalaalla, crowds of Sidamas from every villages of different areas flock together to gather into huge crowds to take part in cultural and national ceremony at respective “Gudumaales” that are designated for such special gatherings’ in each former 10- today’s 19 districts of Sidama region. Gudumaale is sacred place where only religious and cultural events take place. Before the nations assumes its festivities at Gudumaale, the said ascetic elders offer sacrifices for God on behalf of the nation for any past transgressions- praying for bright future for the entire nation.
After Gudumaale is being sanctified, young boys and men gather into a very large group to enthusiastically and rhythmically chant together emphasizing the heroic deeds of Sidama people individually and collectively. The said cultural chant played by men is known as “Qexaala”. Girls on the other part gather and chant rhythmically, the song which is known as ‘Hore’ led by one of the prominent girls among others expressing their aspiration and affections further revealing their intentions in drawing the attentions of boys- by further telling them heroic actions of the men of their clans. They also praise the heroic deeds of prominent Sidamas and encourage the new generation to follow on the footsteps of their heroes and heroines.
During the late hours of the Cambalalla day, the groups of boys and girls get along with each other and go into action of local dances called “Faaro”, the musical plays both girls and boys play together wearing their new “Qolo” and “Hafare” their formal Cambalalla dresses for girls and boys respectively. Boys and girls wear various kinds of ornaments on their hairs, arms/wrist, dresses- and the girls beautify their bodies with different local decorative objects including wearing hennas and wear excellent homemade fragrances; all making them exceptionally beautiful and highly groomed.
This period is also one of the most essential times for youngsters, both boys and girls in helping them to choose their lifelong soul mates-the future wives/husbands. Both parties praise each other’s and play Faro that is known to be one of the Sidama plays people learn how to play in such tactile manner touching each other’s mouth and nose without hurting each other and no sexual connotations; the play that needs special expertise.
VII. Blessing on the end of Daily Festivity
At the end of each day’s Cambalalla festivities, all participants come together and loudly utter a phrase led by elders “Fichchee Jeeji! Jeeji!” as will be case at the final time of the festivity.
Fichchee is a symbolic representation of Sidama Nation’s identity and each of us have got generational obligation to honor our one of deep-rooted cultural heritages to pass it to our descendants to sustain the identity of the Sidama as a Nation!
Fichchee Jeeji Jeeji
By Denboba Natie, June 19, 2017