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The Igbo calendar - Dates, market days, holidays and festivals you shouldn't miss by Drealup(m) : 4:37 pm On Jan 04
You might be a non-igbo or even an igbo person and wonder how this tribe in Nigeria has their own traditional calendar when others are observing the widely used Gregorian calendar.
In case you do not know, Igbos have their own calendar and is unique from all others. Since it is not universal, you might be unaware of it and not all Igbos use it, the ones who do, often disagree on what month or day it is, yet as it is traditional, it is key to the tribe.
The Igbo name for their calendar is Oguafor/ Oguaro, which literally translates as counting of the years an what makes it so special is that it has only four days in a week (izu), seven weeks in a month (onwa) and thirteen months in a year (afo). By the end of each year, an extra day is added.
Every part of the calendar has its own special meaning. For instance, each of the four days (also known as market days) is named after the spirit that governs it. The days also correspond with the four cardinal points of the earth - afo/aho correlates with north, nkwo with south, eke with east and orie/oye with west.
Each community in Igboland has their own dedicated market days. That is why you can find an Eke market or an Afor market even till today.
It is said that market days were established as early as first millennium AD by Eri, a legendary ruler, who (according to legend) was sent by God himself.
Months of the Igbo calendar
Used here is the Nri-Igbo calendar as reference, so do not be surprised if you come across information that differs as i am naturally not an igbo indegene.
The first month of the Igbo calendar is Ọnwạ Mbụ. It usually starts around the third week of February with the Igu Aro festival, which is meant to celebrate the beginning of the year. The second month is called Ọnwạ Abuọ, and it lasts from mid-March until mid-April. This month is for farming and cleaning. The third month is called Ọnwạ Ife Eke (mid-April — mid-May). During this month (also known as the hunger period), Igbo people must starve in order to please Ani (Ana), goddess of the Earth.
The fourth month is Ọnwạ Anọ (mid-May — mid-June). During this month, farmers begin to plant the yam seeds. The fifth month is Ọnwạ Agwụ (mid-June — mid-July). This month is considered to be the traditional start of the year. During Ọnwạ Agwụ, you can witness one of the most fascinating parts of Igbo culture — Igbo masquerade festivals.
The sixth month is Ọnwạ Ifejiọkụ (mid-July — mid-August). It is dedicated to various festivities and yam rituals that praise the Alusi (deity) of yam Njoku Ji. The most famous event of this month is the New Yam Festival. The seventh (Ọnwạ Alọm Chi) and eighth (Ọnwạ Ilo Mmụọ) months occur from mid- August until September. During these months, people usually harvest the yams.
The ninth month is Ọnwạ Ana (October). It is named after and dedicated to the goddess Ana. The next three months (Ọnwạ Okike, Ọnwạ Ajana and Ọnwạ Ede Ajana) span across November, December and some of January, and host the Okike ritual.
The last, thirteenth month of the Igbo calendar is Ọnwạ Ụzọ Alụsị (January — February). During this month, people give their offerings to all the alusi and end the year.
Igbo holidays and festivals
They are always spectacular and fascinating holidays and festivals to look out for in every new year(Igbo calendar year). The year begins with the Igu Aro festival. During this colourful and festive occasion, the priest is meant to give a speech, in which he announces what is going to happen in the upcoming year.
Before planting the yams, Igbos celebrate the week of peace as a way to honour Ani, the Earth goddess. During this week, nobody is allowed to curse, quarrel or even say a harsh word. This is meant to ensure the good harvest.
Important also in the year is the New Yam Festival (Ike Ji/Iri ji/Iwa ji). During the festival, one can try various dishes made out of fresh new yams. The festivities also include cultural dances and fashion parades.
One of the most popular masquerade festivals in Igboland is Mmanwu. During the celebration, initiated members of the masquerade cult (males) come out on the streets wearing various masquerades that depict different deities.
As one can clearly see, the Igbo calendar is filled with various events and mouthwatering holidays, so keep your eyes opened for the upcoming festivities!
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