The Sidama’s 2022 New Year ‘Fichchee’ Coldly Celebrated Globally and In Reoccupied Sidama Land Whilst The Empire Is Heading Towards Its Inevitable Disintegration.
By Denboba Natie (April 30, 2022)
I. Introductory Remark
Firstly, I would like to say to Sidama nation ‘Sidaama Cambalaalla’!! The Sidama’s 2022 new year known as ‘Fichchee’ was coldly celebrated in reoccupied Sidama land and globally on the 29th of April 2022. Fichchee, is the actual Sidama’s new year day and it fell on the 28th of April 2022. The beginning of the festivity and celebration day of the Sidama Fichchee is known as Cambalaalla and its was started on the 29th of April 2022. In Sidama’s true culture there is no phrase known as ‘Fichchee-Cambalaalla’.
The Sidama new year our forefathers and foremothers passed over to us is known as Fichchee, but nothing else. There is no prefix or suffix attached to Fichchee in Sidama culture until it became bastardised by the Sidama land occupying colonial Neftegna forces to whose rule today’s Sidama elites knowingly or inadvertently succumb without defending their national pride and heritage.
Cambalaalla means simply ‘Happy Sidama New Year’. ‘Ayiide Cambalaalla’ means, happy new year to all household meaning to all family members usually uttered from the outside of the house of the visited family by the visitor or visitors who go to convey messages of good wishes to their family members, neighbours or anywhere else where they pass by during the festivity period. Whether the household is known or not, all Sidama throughout the Sidama region say ‘Ayiide Cambalaalla’ to all people for weeks following the announcement of the Fichchee and the subsequent Cambalaalla.
The Sidama’s Fichchee was inscribed as intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2015. The UNESCO’s https://ich.unesco.org/…/fichee-chambalaalla-new-year… recorded the Sidama Fichchee with Neftegna bastardised forms as follows:- ‘’Fichee-Chambalaalla, New Year festival of the Sidama people Inscribed in on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’’. This record to date remains bastardised despite our repeated disagreement by sending letters to the organisation to rectify these critical and historic errors. Moreover, our calls to UNESCO and the Sidama’s regional state that is currently ruled by Neftegna agents remain relevant and urge all pasties to correct these mistakes.
The Sidama’s Fichchee coldly celebrated in a reoccupied Sidama land since the Sidama’s defining victory over the Neftegna regime to snatch its rights to regional self-rule from their hands in late 2019. 2020’s and last year’s Fichchee was extremely bastardised and remembered in Neftegna style under the pretext of Covid-19 pandemic during the time Abiy’s regime was taking out tens of thousands of Sidama people to go on Qeexala to support his criminal regime. After the Sidama’s unstoppable victory over Abiy’s regime; the regime and his Neftegna advisers used their plan B and installed their handpicked Sidama cadres who are known for their anti-Sidama records like that of the infamous anti-Sidama quisling ‘Shiferaw Shiguxe’ who has vowed during EPRDF’s era ‘the Sidama nation never asserts its rights to statehood until he dies’’. Currently such the Sidama’s worst quislings are meddling with Sidama affairs whilst implementing anti-Sidama unionists’ project in Sidama land.
Meanwhile the Ethiopian empire is heading towards its inevitable demise due to reckless and heartless actions of the regime and its supporters to subjects. The empire is in dire conditions. Besides, the ultimate purpose of this article is not about refusing for and against the indicated the Sidama worst quislings discussing about the demise of the empire; but it’s giving an overview of the Sidama’s national heritage, the Sidama Fichchee.
II. Background Of the Sidama Fichchee
Fichchee, among others is one of the most important cultural values and traditions inherited from ancestors that uniquely characterize the Sidama nation. It has been celebrated by the Sidama nation for several millennia. However, recorded evidence that help to understand when the nation has started celebrating it is scanty although the oral tradition passed from generation to generation states that it has 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.
The Sidama nation has preserved this cultural heritage, the Sidama ‘Fichchee’ despite the depth and magnitudes of difficulties the nation is subjected to since its land occupied by the indicated invader since 1880s. Although a lot of others Sidama’s noble cultural heritages were significantly eroded since the nation has lost its sovereignty to the invaders since the indicated time due to the imposition of their cultures and ways of life with direct and indirect coercions; the Sidama nation’s forefathers and mothers preserved the most important ones with great deal of sacrifices whilst fighting back to maintain and inherit it to today’s Sidama generation. The Sidama’s new generation is inherited this noble heritage for which it wholeheartedly thanks its forefathers and mothers.
III. A Preparation to Welcoming Fichchee
A preparation to celebrate Fichchee in Sidaama land starts months ahead of time. Ladies prepare special Sidama spiced better known as Shshiilo (Mature better boiled and refined with a lot of Sidama herbs) in addition to preparing special food known as ‘galino waasa’ meaning mature and aged Sidama ladies made unprocessed food made of false banana that is planned to be cooked in special manner during the Fichchee celebration. The Sidama men on the other hand reserve secluded pastures, well fenced and protected until Cambalaalla day for the purpose of cattle and other domestic animal grazing. Neighbourhoods cooperate to repair any houses needing repair for widowed ladies and elderly members of the community whose children are not of the age to take those responsibilities or who may not have children at all. These tasks are usually completed before months leading to the Fichchee.
This years’ Fichchee in reoccupied Sidama celebrated coldly by all Sidamas with spirit of defiance, indefatigability, and renewed determination to demand the regime to allow the nation to reassert its rights to genuine regional self-rule instead of being ruled by an installed cadres who are all the agents of the Neftegna regime in dearly earned Sidama state.
IV. The Fichchee night and Cambalaalla’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, Fichchee Diruni Diro keeruni illishi!! Sidaamaho eeli! And “Cambalaalla! Iille,Iille”, meaning Happy New Year, Happy New Year to all- and to the nation as a whole! After lengthy blessings of the elders who sprinkle pure natural Spring water to all corners of the house from the container of sanctified water pot 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 clay ware 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 Shshaaffettaa) will be served with milk. This is the delicacy the Sidama nation enjoy beginning on early Cambalaalla 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 Cambalaalla day.
In the early hours of Cambalaalla day, all members of the family and neighbours 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 is no status by birth; it should be earned.
When such rituals take place simultaneously over the Sidama’s entire region, the ceremony of an official beginning of the festivities of Cambalaalla is honoured 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 and announced date. In this case, this year’s (2022) Sidama New Year ‘Fichchee’ is decided to take place on the 28th of April an official festivity date, Cambalaalla has taken place on the 29th of April 2022.
The ceremonial celebration of the Fichchee on actual Cambalaalla’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 the time immemorial; therefore, it’s believed to be one of the few oldest lunar calendar years in the world.
V. Deciding the date of Fichchee
As explained above, an 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. This is being communicated to wider Sidama society after confirmation. In older days the Sidama forefathers/mothers communicated the Cambalaalla 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 is now entirely serving the authorities through which they disseminate their political propagandas with objectives of intimidating and suppressing the Sidama nation.
Starting on the afternoon of Cambalaalla, there will be series of local and sub-regional Gudumaale’s where people gather to celebrate with dances of various categories such as Qeexala (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.
VI. Meat, Quarrel, And Any Forms Of Disputes Are Prohibited During Fichchee And Cambalaalla!
During the Sidama New Year Cambalaalla festivities, no meat is allowed to be prepared and consumed either on Fichchee and Cambalaalla 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 during the festivity period! Moreover, cattle enjoy special treatment on Sidama’s New Year Day as indicated 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 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 of the society within the Sidama nation.
On the afternoon of the first day of Cambalaalla, crowds of Sidamas from all villages of different areas flock together to gather into huge crowds to take part in cultural and national ceremony at respective “Gudumales” that are designated for such special gatherings in each former 10- today’s 19 districts of Sidama region. Gudumale is sacred place where only religious and cultural events take place. Before the nation assumes its festivities at Gudumale, the said ascetic elders offer sacrifices to almighty God the creator on behalf of the nation for any past transgressions- praying for bright future for the entire nation.
After Gudumale is being sanctified, young boys and men gather into a very large groups to chant together enthusiastically and rhythmically emphasizing the heroic deeds of Sidama people individually and collectively. The said cultural chant played by men is known as “Qeexala”. Girls on the other part gather and chant rhythmically, the song which is known as ‘Hoore’ led by one of the prominent girls among others expressing their aspiration and affections to heroism of Sidama men further revealing their intentions in drawing the attention 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 Cambalaalla 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 Cambalaalla dresses for girls and boys respectively. Boys and girls wear various kinds of ornaments on their hairs, arms, wrist, fingers (girls) dresses- and the girls beautify their bodies with different local decorative objects including wearing hennas and wear excellent homemade fragrances (Su’nare and Qu’ne); all making them exceptionally beautiful, highly groomed, and attractive.
This period of the year 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 with no sexual connotations; the play that needs special expertise. Unfortunately, this writer regrets for not knowing how to play apart from jealously observing such exceptionally intricate play of the Sidama people.
At the end of each day’s Cambalaalla festivities, all participants come together and loudly utter a phrase led by elders “Fichchee Jeeji! Jeeji!” as it will be the case at the final time of the festivity.
Finally, Fichchee is a symbolic representation of Sidama Nation’s identity and each of us have got generational obligation to honour our one of deep-rooted cultural heritages to pass over to our descendants to sustain the identity of the Sidama Nation! The misnomer used by UNESCO must be urgently rectified and the Sidama generation has got historic obligation to get this rectified as urgently as possible.
Fichchee Jeeji, Jeeji!!
By Denboba Natie (April 30, 2022)
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