IKEJI (ARONDIZUOGU) FESTIVAL: CELEBRATION AND MEANING

IKEJI (ARONDIZUOGU) FESTIVAL: CELEBRATION AND MEANING

(AS DOCUMENTED BY MAZI MBONU OJIKE IN APRIL 1955)

“Ikeji … was the most ceremonial of the of the annual festivals. It was the harvest celebration, when my father invited all his relatives to rejoice with him. Ikeji does not fall on a certain day of the year, as does Christmas. Instead it is set by the village elders seven African weeks, that is twenty-eight days, in advance. Often the month falls in the month of November of the modern calendar.

At the third crowing of the cock that morning my father’s entire family assembled before the ancestral shrine, which had been adorned the evening before with palm leaves. His eldest wife offered him the water with which to wash his hands and face. Everyone had of course bathed and put on his best clothes. Then my father broke a colanut, offered a small portion of it to the shrine, killed a goat, and sprinkled a few drops of its blood on the shrine. He laid there also four pieces of chalk, and he prayed to Chineke, God the Creator, thanking him for good harvest and protection, and asking his continued grace and guidance in the new year then beginning.

The family shared and ate the kola, and Ikeji was thus officially proclaimed. Every wife who had a household invited my father to her own home and let him slaughter for her the animal or fowl which she had bought for the feast. That ended the ceremonial part of the festival. From then on, for days, the celebration assumed the nature of feasting, dancing, demonstration, and entertainment. Of cows, goats, pigs, and chickens many delicacies were prepared. Every wife had been given some money to cook whatever she liked and so be prepared to entertain her daughters, sons-in-law, and other guests. Homes were kept scrupulously clean and lavishly decorated. All sorts of entertainers were invited. Especially there were the masked dancers called long juju. To this day, the sounds of horn and trumpet, dramatic story-telling and contests and dancing, make Ikeji the supreme local festival yet unravelled by the Christmas celebration in merriment and gaiety.” Culled from, Mbonu Ojike, _My Africa_ (London: Blandford Press, 1955), 36.

Wishing all participants, their friends and well-wishers a memorable and peaceful Ikeji (Arondizuogu) 2021 celebration (in advance)
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Rev Fr Angelo Chidi Unegbu