Archive | August, 2013

FICHCHEE: The Sidama people’s New Year Celebration as one of the most distinguished peculiar features of the Sidama people

5 Aug

Ayide Cambalala!!


Hawassa, Sidama, Ethiopia

05 August 2013                                         

 What is Fichchee? / What is the basis for establishment of Sidama people calendar? and what are the necessary events occurring before and after Fiche Celebration?


 Fichchee is an anniversary celebrated by the Sidama people as a New Year event. According to socio-cultural heritages handed down by forefathers through generations to descendants (current generation) Sidama New Year (Fichhcee) anniversary has been celebrated for more than 2000 years. Basis for such unique local New Year’s Day determination and celebration is Sidama calendar which was an outcome of unreserved and relentless innovative efforts of selected knowledgeable and highly respected group of people who were actively involved in profound study of the solar system among which the moon, earth, sun and stars included. According to Sidama people such complicated investigations on part of the solar system is conducted and findings communicated to the public by most intelligent group of people popularly known as Ayyantto (“Astrologists”).

 Since period of ancient time up to present this selected group of people has been undertaking comprehensive study on characteristics including shape, color, volume, distance between each other, mobility, change of their position through time and related situations of the solar system. To accomplish very tasks of such unique phenomenon in the locality they get out of their living house at midnight and assemble outside and observe situations of the moon and stars for several hours a day for at least four to six days per month. Most of the time they perform such tasks collectively and some occasions they carry out their study individually. When undertaking investigation in group each will present analyzed findings of what he has observed and thoroughly discussions on observations and findings will be made to arrive at plausible conclusion. If observations and related investigations done individually investigation findings will be presented on appointed time and place where general meeting of the group held.

According to discussion procedure principle of Sidama which is termed as the Affini system (have you heard system) before reaching to conclusions /declaring on issues of special public affairs of interest implementation of the Affini system procedure is strictly observed to realize its exercise. Therefore before making conclusion remarks and declaration on issues of public importance the Affini principle strongly presupposes application of its procedure to be not only essential but also mandatory. According to Sidama people Affini system (have you heard?) every selected topic of interest to be discussed by the public, general assembly of associations, groups and on this special assembly of Ayyantto (local astrologists) discussions should fulfill  requirement of set criteria of the Affini system.

According to Affini principle first and foremost agenda for discussion should be selected/chosen by assembly member and approved at least by the majority. The assembly is led by elected chair person and/or highly respected community leader or cultural leader. The chair person opens the floor for discussion inviting members to forward suggestions on the agenda. He receives two or more supplementary ideas for the suggestion provided. Following this the leader invites members to forward views against the suggestion. Maintaining application of the system he invites two or three members to forward evidences supporting the one who objected previous suggestion. After giving adequate time for both groups to vent out their opinion he further calls up on all members of the assembly to actively participate on this essentially all rounded discussion the outcome of which is expected to produce reliable findings very important to make plausible conclusions and recommendations.

 To collect evidence based information from suggestions /opinions or comments which serve as pro or against the groups the chairperson opens the floor and invites members to enable them actively involved in discussions through asking questions, make comments, amendments, clarifications, participating in dialogues and debates, forwarding decisions, making critical evaluation of evidences given by the two groups, suggesting possible conclusion and recommendations and the like. Adequate time will be allocated by the chairperson for discussants to enable them participate whole heartedly on such thorough and indeed detailed and all rounded discussions meant to produce most dependable evidences which is of vital importance to make credible decisions. In the discussion process ideas which instigate irrelevant disputes, disregard, disrespect, insult, under estimations, gossips, and blabs, black mailing and related opinions which create hostility between supporters of two parties will not be entertained.

Application of aforementioned steps of the Affini system procedure is so strictly observed for it is considered as not only essential but also mandatory to produce reliable evidence very much needed to pass non partisan resolution, produce evidence based findings needed to fortify strength of conclusion and recommendations made to be declared on behalf of represented public and its spiritually trustful socio-cultural heritages (Sidama).

The purpose of undertaking such meticulous Affini system implementation activities found its basis in that Sidama people believe in Magano (God) who is omnipotent, omnipresent, the all can do , creator of everything that exists, among others he is Truth. Based on this opinion of their own they believed that Magano (God) is Truth and during our stay on this land all activities we undertake/behave should be concordant to general truth (where creator remains disposer of everything). Depending on this governing idea Sidama people believe that while living in this world we have to try our level best to find out correct pathway of truth and live with. It is the opinion of Sidama people that no matter huge sacrifice demanding the cost of truth becomes we have to be bound to do, behave, act, talk, etc and all our deed in life should conform with reality(Truth).

 It is to realize this belief that they dedicated themselves to be so meticulous to critically evaluate deeds, behaviors, innovations and the like on reality basis before declaring public issues of importance which need to be implemented to serve development enhancing purpose of the people. Mentioned description of events was deliberately made to avoid confusions that innovative activities of Sidama’s Ayyantto (local astrologists) which enabled the people have their own new year (Fichchee) to celebrate as one of indisputable gains of Sidama calendar the establishment of which was an outcome of relentless and indeed unprecedented efforts of Sidama people made before 2000 years. Over all events that led to establishment of Sidama calendar was based on Moon’s position, movement, shape, color, direction, etc and courses it follows to rotate on itself, revolves around the earth and the sun. Moreover its spatial relations to other stars and their position, movements (appearing separated or close to the moon and/or to each other) were some the events which Sidama astrologists had close observations and investigated their overall function to produce evidences of vital importance to establish the calendar.

 Based on investigation findings of the Ayyantto (“Sidama astrologists”)   and according to established calendar Sidama has a week comprising of five days. Names of days of the week were derived from market days occurring in different places and were name as Diko, Deella, Kawaado and Kawalanka respectively. According to the calendar a month has 28 days and each day has its own name. According to the Ayyantto some days of the month on which day some work is done, travel made, foundation of new establishment and the like done may end up in good luck or bad luck to performer. Declaration of first day of next month and that of first day of New Year (Fichchee) will be announced when the Ayyantto see close approximation of the moon to five constellations of stars with defined movements observed in relation to each other and to that of the moon. Since establishment of the calendar activities have been undertaken by Ayyantto in each month and year through out in regular basis till present time.

History of Sidama calendar with its relationship with overall socio-economic, socio-cultural and related affairs is broad and so wider that it cannot be exhausted in such very limited description and for simplicity only few events encountered in relation with Fiche (Sidama’s New Year) events will be entertained briefly.

 Preparation to celebrate forth coming new year (Fichchee) will start soon after second month of the new year celebration  has occurred in mid year (6th month) most house wives start preparing through processing the Enset plant after cutting it mashing its stem and root together with mixing it Gamancho (preserved root serving to ferment it thereby giving it desirable flavor). After lapse of months prepared kocho will be squeezed to let it dry and become ready to be used for preparation. Squeezed liquid coming out from solid kocho will be let to settle and dry to produce high quality kocho which is otherwise known as Bulla (kocho which is paper white in color and indeed of best quality).  Better to be used on the celebration day will be started to be collected and reserved before 04 months of celebration. To put / save adequate reserve house wives engage in working collectively so that every house hold has sufficient amount of better to be used on celebration day. Collection and putting as reserve of wood will be made several months before the celebration for on that day no one is expected and even culturally allowed to go to bush to gather it. Every necessary materials (wood, kocho, better, water, furniture, goods, utensils, etc) will be ready at least one week prior to celebration day.

 One month prior to celebrating anniversary of Fiche particularly community elders, leaders and cultural leaders will start one month lasting fasting. During their fasting period they pray longer hours per day praising the lord (Magano). They initially pray for their own selves praising the lord that he forgives them from whatever sins committed and misdoings they underwent in the last year. After that start to pray through  praising the lord on behalf of their people (indigenous) other people living with them by and large the country so that almighty who is the all can do forgive them all and the country at large from all sins committed, misbehavior, misdoings, malpractices done and the like. Moreover they use left period of time to communicate with members of communities who got involved in conflicts, disputes and the like between each other, families, sub –clans, ethnic groups, religious groups and the like in attempt of bringing about reconciliations /conflict resolutions. In addition to this they communicate with  representatives of other communites cultural and religious leaders, local administrators,  representatives of other social groups including women, youth, farmers, workers, professionals, intellectuals and others involved and concerned to effectively deal with problems of various sorts encountered in their geared attempt of bringing about reconcilations doing away socio – economic , socio – cultural, ethnic, religious and other related clashes, disputes and/or clashes occurred between  (individuals, families, ethnic groups and others involved and concerned before  declared time for eve of  new year’s celebration approaches.  Moreover fulfillment of  socio – cultural heritages  including Fiche  celebration, respect, preservation and protection directing cultural law strongly presupposes that each adult element or every member of Sidama is expected to meet  requirement for set objectives of Fiche celebration among which says that the people being  led by community elders, leaders and cultural leaders should make inner heart felt prayer with their leaders including praising the creator/ God /Magano  from 1st day of fasting and praying to 30th day (1 month) through period of which they make prayer and respectfully demand magano/God to bring about realization of  best wish they have to  all human beings  that let coming new year  of Fiche celebration be time of health, peace,unity, work, prosperity, security, tolerance of diversity and by and large welfarity to all living things (animals and plants as well)  particularly in this strict sense to all humans irrespective of race, ethnicity,citzenship, age, sex,location of residence, religion, culture, ideology,outlook, education/intelligence levels, wealth, social status, difference in levels/status of responsibilities or rank of power they possess to lead people in given localities or countries and the like) so that forthcoming new year  be made to serve purpose of maintaining love with each other, harmony, fraternity, brother/ sister hood, harmony, unity and such conducive atmosphere be used to increase levels of productivity in all sorts of efforts to enhance and strengthen levels of health development and development advancement in the country.

Before two weeks of celebration day the Ayyantto of Sidama get out of their residential house at mid night and very carefully observe and investigate situations occurring in and around the moon and after they confirm relation of the moon to constellations of the stars they unanimously reach to agree as when the day of new year celebration will be  and they declare this event celebration day usually on market days and using other means heralding day of celebration of new year as decided by all of them.


 Eve of the New Year is popularly called Fitaari (eve of Sidama’s new year: Fiche). During this event households residing nearby most elder person and family gather in house of this eldest father to celebrate the event. As mentioned above preparation made by each household to celebrate new year was over long before several months and Kocho / preferably Bulla prepared and mixed with needed amount of butter  depending on type of  (waasa preparation requiring increased amount of butter as that happens/seen  in Chukame, Buurisame and Shaqishame which is contained in material made of clay soil called Shaafeeta or Shaaqqo respectively).together with milk collected will be served to those who gather as a feast prepared to welcome  the new year. Similar events celebration occasions occurs on that very special event in each household in the communities.

On such event celebration day only Waasa/Bu’la/ kocho full of butter and milk is served in the meal no meat included. Even on that very night meat should not be left in any of Sidama household. Early on the first day of new Fichchee year sons/ daughters, grandsons/daughters and other relatives come to house of the eldest leader and say Ayidde Cambbalaalla (Happy new year!) and Mam and  Dad of their children and grand children will respond by saying Iille/ Iilli (Happy new year to you and to all!). In the mean time water full of Tiltte (Utensil on which kocho is served) will be presented infront on whose upper edge small better is put on the top edge of it taken to anoint on ones forehead and there after everybody say let Fiche comes every year, happy new year,  and also say long live Fiche and its celebration!!!!. .

Ever body who appears to this eldest father’s home shares from what is available.  Exactly similar events occur in every household of sidama communities. On this day young children of communities will go to every household of which their parents have preferably better relationship even if this is not mandatory and they share from whatever staffs available after consuming of which they play cultural songs and dances relevant to and indeed chosen for celebration of Sidama’s newyear (Fiche). On this very day children are left to relax and enjoy from the celebration and they are not expected to be fetch water, look after cattle, and perform any tasks in and out of their houses, compounds and villages. Moreover due attention is placed on domesticated animals (cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, horses, mules, etc) and they will be made to graze from grass left to flourish for months to be used by animals on this very day which shows that utmost emphasis has been placed even to enable animals enjoy the day and as a matter of fact way no animal is slaughtered on this very day for consumption of their meat. After enjoying from the feast prepared for the celebration every social group will go to chosen place for celebration of the newyear and show their participation on celebrating the event. Boys and girls join group of cultural songs and dance called Faaro / Lembbo and those group of married men and women join Hano (Cultural dance involving only married women and men) , other group which include matured male particularly and women and boys./girls to some extent join songs/ dances prepared to adore and witness importance of this great Fichchee new year celebration.

 Even though culture of Sidama people strongly presupposes giving alms and providing of any available and affordable support to the poorest of poor, this new year’s celebration gives utmost emphasis on providing support to those who are poor, infected and affected by communicable diseases including HIV–AIDS .STIS, vulnerable children, the elderly and those who were handicapped as a result of which providing support to such groups has been considered as most essential part of Sidama’s new year celebration. Celebrating the newyear will continue till one month in every area most importantly newyear’s celebration will continue through making/playing cultural songs, dances and chanting on various market places. Moreover this occasion of celebrating new year’s anniversary incidentally used by overwhelming majority of Sidama people to actively participate on escalating coordinated efforts being made to bring about concerted and conjoint collaborative efforts of all which is of vital importance to reduce further spread of communicable diseases including HIV–AIDS and mitigate its adverse effects and reduce poverty levels in Sidama zone in particular and our country in general. This is only most precise and concise description made pertaining events in most likely encountered and  well taken care of in  Sidama’s new year ( Fichchee ) celebration.