The New Yam Festival is one of the most important and glamorous festivals in Igboland, southeast of Nigeria. It is celebrated between August and October to thank the gods for a good harvest. It also heralds the harvesting season and provides an opportunity for a social gathering of the tribes. It is culturally rooted in ancient agrarian Igbo society, where wealth is measured by yam. Yam was the king crop. It’s shade of importance spread to ownership, a large barn or barns was definitely an indication of wealth, commerce; likewise a big yam trader and in lifestyle; yam fufu instead of cassava or any other kind of fufu was a sure sign that the visitor was considered important or the host, rich. To a large extent, this association lingers till today in lifestyle. A prestigious party or occasion will have pounded yam fufu on its menu
The new yam is harvested earlier than August, but anyone who considers himself a true son or daughter of Igboland will not eat it before the festival which is the cultural approval or signal to begin consumption.
The festival begins with a the public ceremonial roasting of whole yams by the chief or titled elders of the community, after the yams have been first offered to ‘Ohajoku’ or the yam or earth gods, the rest are shared and the community can then feel free to consume new yam without incurring the wrath of the gods. In modern times, this festival provides an opportunity to call home sons and daughters abroad to renew and reaffirm brotherhood and a sense of belonging and to plan for community development.
It is characterised by elaborate personal and communal preparations and competitions; new masquarades, dances and performances vie to outdo the other, new clothes and designs on parade vie to outshine the last though the duration and grandure differ from one community to the other.
In recent times it has begun to attract national and international attention. The Offala of the Obi of Onitsha and Iriji of Arondizuogu are two of the notable ones thatI can easily call to mind. It is a great occasion to meet up with relatives and friends and perhaps a future partner as one young person confided.You don’t get to see such a rich and divers crowd everyday, so we make the most of it.