One of the most important and glamorous festivals in Igboland is celebrated between August and October. Igboland is in the southeast of Nigeria, and the goal of the festival is to give thanks to the gods for a good harvest.
The cultural roots of the festival lie in ancient agrarian Igbo society, where a person’s wealth was measured by the major crop of the time, namely yams. Many years later, yam fufu instead of yam cassava is still a sign of wealth and importance, with many prestigious parties or occasions having yam fufu on the menu.
Yams are harvested before August, but the people of Igboland often wait until after the festival before they consume the yams. The festival is seen as the cultural approval that people need to eat yams.
The festival is a time for various tribes to come together and celebrate. The festival kicks off with a public ceremonial roasting of yams by the elder members of tribes and the chief of tribes. The first yams are offered to the yam/earth gods, called ‘Ohajoku’, and the rest are shared by community members. Some of the condiments used to cook the yams include salt, fresh palm oil, utazi, crayfish, peppers, and onions, to name a few.
After the roasting of the yams, a royal dance, cultural dance, masquerade parade, and musical renditions by various cultural groups will take place. The New Yam Festival is as old as the Igbo culture itself, which is why it is widely attended by people of Nigeria as well as those from overseas and across borders.
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