The Igbo New Year: do they really know it’s a new year in Igboland?

In a discussion I had few weeks ago with a friend of mine who is a businessman, he informed me that the recent dip in the value of the Dollar is as a result of the Chinese holiday which culminates in the Chinese New Year. He went further to educate me on the fact that there are other new years apart from that of the Gregorian calendar, like that of the Ethiopians, Koreans, Indians and other Asian countries. He marveled at such. But all through that lecture, I kept my cool, listening to this businessman turned anthropologist who was carried away by the exoticness of the ‘New Years’ elsewhere but has no knowledge that the Igbo has a similar tradition that is marked every year which has not been broken in the last 1,014 years. Millions of Igbo are not even aware of the significance of this event, do they really care about cultural revival, is it not lip service that we all pay to issues of cultural revival and positive historical revisionism?

Over the week end, the Eze Nri, who is the Custodian of Igbo Culture and Tradition and the Keeper of the ancestral “Ofo” Ndigbo ushered all Igbo into the Igbo New Year by performing the Igu Aro Festival. It is instructive to note that the Eze Ènweleána II Obidiegwu Onyeso(MFR) is the 16th recorded, and currently ruling, Eze Nri of the Kingdom of Nri. He reigns over the remnant of the oldest kingdom in contemporary Nigeria. The earliest recorded monarch of this sacred stool is Eze Nri Ìfikuánim who reigned from 1043 to 1089.From 1089 till date all names and periods of reigns of all Eze Nri are recorded.

During the Ịgụ-Arọ Festival, Eze Nri proclaims the New Year; he also distributes seed yams to the Igbo People and asked them to go home and farm. He tells the people that after his Ịgụ-Arọ, approximately within four days but certainly not more than three native weeks (Izu Anọ) “you will have the first rainfall, so after this rainfall you can go ahead to cultivate your crop”. The Eze Nri in essence is also the Chief Meteorologist of Ndigbo.
The proclamation of the Igbo Lunar Calendar is done in February which is the first month on the Igbo Calendar. Lunar Months approximate the mean length of the synod month of approximately 29.53059 days (29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 seconds). A lunar calendar is a calendar that is based on cycles of the moon phase. For some lunar calendars, the first day of the month is the day when eclipse moon appears in a particular time zone. Many other lunar calendars are based on the first sighting of a lunar crescent.
Igbo Lunar calendar is based on the 13 lunar months of 28 days each plus one extra day known as “a year and a day”. Each of these months is made up of seven Igbo weeks “izu asaa”, each “izu” is made up of four market days-Eke, Orie, Afo and Nkwo. All these market days are deities-(alusi) and have their originating shrines in Nri. Eze Nri introduced these four deities in Igboland, hence, Nri priests (agents) traveled all over Igboland consecrating the Shrines of these deities. The proclamation of the Igbo Lunar Calendar from year to year is the prerogative of Eze Nri. It is interesting that the Igbo New Year starts in February, same as does the Chinese, Koreans, Indian and other cultures in Asia , Far East and Israel . These cultures use the moon appearing in the sky to calculate their months and determine their seasons and time.
The Lunar system of calculating the year with a system of adjustment was known to the Nri priests of Alụsị Arọ and the knowledge of the movement of the heavenly bodies were employed in calculation the lunar year. Nri elders had clear knowledge of these stars and others which helped them in calculating the intervals between each Lunar period and finding their directions during their sojourn from one Igbo Village to another in both the semi – forest and the forest zones.

This is our new year. But do we know its significance, like the reeds, we get tossed back and forth by whatever ideology that shows up, simply because the foundation of our education is faulty. We have such rich cultural heritage, yet one wonders what they teach our kids at school these days in the name of history. I don’t even know if history as a subject is still offered in our schools. Our people hop into the plane to faraway places to witness mythical ceremonies, yet they are unaware of the most mythical of them all happening at their backyard. Yet we want to compete with the world. There is always a cultural basis on which all economic growths and developments are built upon, from the Japanese to the Chinese, Koreans, Indians, even Brazilians. Same goes to all the countries of Europe and North America.

No serving governor, senator or even a member of the House of Representative took a space to congratulate the Eze Nri on the Igu Aro, yet they talk about development. Such a huge event that has great tourism potential goes unnoticed. Even the so called online Africanists and cultural revisionists were not aware.

My people, culture matters!

Happy new year to my Igbo people!


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