Fiche Chamballala: A feast beyond celebraring a new year

According to one of sidama folklores, a young woman used to vist her parents annually following her marriage. She used to carry gifts like the delicious Sidama traditional food called Bursame, made from enset and butter. Her annual visit is believed ti be the origin for the celebration of fiche chamballala, the annual feast of Sidama new year.

For centuries thousands of elders, youth and children from various corners of Sidama state gather in a place called gudumale, to celebrate Fiche chamballala , which mainly marks the coming of new year .

Registered by UNESCO as one of the worlds intangible heritages, fiche chamballala encompasses traditions that make it show its impact in peacemaking, respect to elders, children, women, youth, cattle and protection of the natural environment.

As the people of Sidama have been celebrating fiche chamballala since time immemorial it is difficult to tell what year the newyear is as per the Sidama traditional calendar. But Sidama elders, called Ayantus use their ages old indigenous knowledge of analyzing the lunar sysltem and astrology to determine the exact date for the newyear. As they figure out the date for the newyear, they declare a two weeks long fasting season.

The fasting season ends with a ceremony called fetora which is the eve of the new year. The tribal elder called ayantu inaugurates the fetora by passing through a hole called huluqa. His family and members of the society also follow the aganyu and pas through the hullyqa. The huluqa marks transition from old to new year, but all those who do this are expected to cleanse them selves from grudges and forgive others before transitting to the new year. This way fiche srrves as a means of peace making in the society.

Though meat is the most favirite food through out Ethiopia including sidama , fiche is celebrated with out meat. People do not cut trees or collect fire wood in any way for the feast. This gives a unique regard to the natural environment and cattle. It is meant to give relief to animals and forest. If at all there is meat at home which is left there before the feast, people would prefer to move it out of home during the holiday. People even make due care not to scare the cattle on that special day. So cattle are allowed to graze special grass and appetizing saline black soil called Bole.

Parents do not punish children during celebration of fiche chamballala. They are rather allowed to have fun around.

Just like valentines day , Fitche chamballala is also an ideal moment for young men and women to choose or propose their future soul mates. At the gudumale, young boys play the faro dancing while girls play farie. A boy then sends a tooth pick to the girl he chooses. If the girl accepts the branches she ushers in the start of a newchapter in the love life of the bog and her. But she has all the right to refuse the proposal if she doesnt choose the boy.

According to Dawit Lengiso, Sidama State culture, tourism and sports bureau vice head, the multiple impacts of the anniversary have made the people to eagerly wait for its onset every year. The people have also maintained the beautiful culture for centuries without eroding its valuable components.

The culture embedded in fiche chamballala has also paid back significantly as Sidama state is one of tbe evr green places in the country. Sidama is well known for its green ecosystem which also includes diverse vegetation like the common cash crops coffe, khat, vegetables, enset … etc.

According to Abebe Taffese , Communication Director with Sidama State Culture , tourism and sports bureau, fiche chamballala was able to be enlisted as one of the intangible heritages of rhe world due to all these feaures, and the state would do all the necessary works to further uphold them .

Accordingly, Dawit indicated that due efforts are underway through the nation wide Green legacy initiative to nurture the green natural ecosytem of the rwgion which is one of the legacies of chamballala.

The culture of forgiveness and reconciliation is also a timely and vital issue for the country which is bracing to carry out an inclusive national dialogue that is anticipated to cleanse the grievances of the past and bring abour sustainable peace in the country.


The Ethiopian Herald April 7/2024





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