Fichee-Chambalaalla, New Year festival of the Sidama people

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Inscribed in 2015 (10.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH), 2014

Fichee-Chambalaalla is a New Year festival celebrated among the Sidama people. According to the oral tradition, Fichee commemorates a Sidama woman who visited her parents and relatives once a year after her marriage, bringing buurisame, a meal prepared from false banana, milk and butter, which was shared with neighbours. Fichee has since become a unifying symbol of the Sidama people. Each year, astrologers determine the correct date for the festival, which is then announced to the clans. Communal events take place throughout the festival, including traditional songs and dances. Every member participates irrespective of age, gender and social status. On the first day, children go from house to house to greet their neighbours, who serve them buurisame. During the festival, clan leaders advise the Sidama people to work hard, respect and support the elders, and abstain from cutting down indigenous trees, begging, indolence, false testimony and theft. The festival therefore enhances equity, good governance, social cohesion, peaceful co-existence and integration among Sidama clans and the diverse ethnic groups in Ethiopia. Parents transmit the tradition to their children orally and through participation in events during the celebration. Women in particular, transfer knowledge and skills associated with hairdressing and preparation of buurisame to their daughters and other girls in their respective villages.

After the actual date for the Fichee celebration is reckoned and identified by ayyanto, clan leaders and competent elder (chimeesa) attend a meeting called songo summoned to make decision on the proclamation of the date to the people.
Making peace with other party with whom one has had disagrements before Fichee holiday by resolving any sort of conflicts they had with their relatives or neighbours, a culture of personal purification and promotion to a new year.
Announcing the date on which the Fichee holiday falls to the wider community by hanging skin of sheep on stick, known as lalawa, by clan leaders in their respective areas at gudumaale where large number of people gather for marketing purposes.
Undertaking thorough observation of the moora, white fattish layer of small intestine of the slaughteered goat.The specialists with the skill of reading moora announce the result to the public whether the year to come is 'blessed and promising' or not
Passing through a door like shape or arc made using wet bamboo tree in gudumaale, symbolizing the entrance to a new year, renouncing all the bad things of the old year and accepting the new one with good wishes.
In the evening of the Fichee holiday, a cultural dish, known as buursame, is served on a clay pot, known as shafeta, and feasted on communally. The feast kicks off in a house of a man who has higher social status
The event of feeding the cattle a salty soil, known as bole, by scattering it in a grazing area or kalo which is a reserved pasture for the animals by heads of households on the day of Chambalaalla (New Year).
Hore is a traditional singing performed by unmarried girls in which they beautify themselves and go to play with their peers and praise one another, and finally join the boys they want to play with and sing and dance faaro
Faaro is a traditional singing and dancing performed by unmarried boys and girls interested in each other, facing in rows in opposite direction, moving back and forth and bending down their neck during Fichee festival at Gudumaale, public gathering places
Ketala is a traditional singing and dancing performed by adult male community members, wearing a traditional cloth, known as gonfa, with red, white and black strip colors and buluko (home-spun cotton cloth) and holding spear and shield.