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For Gabbra community, New Year 2021 is already here
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|For Gabbra community, New Year 2021 is already here by Kenyans247(1): Fri 06, November, 2020 02:08am|
What you need to know:
In Marsabit, the New Year celebration is currently at its peak.
The climax of New Year brings the extended family together to attend a succession of events.
It is everybody's wish to see the year 2020 come to an end. This is the year when Covid-19 rearranged the world order and saw many people die.
It is for this reason that most people want the year to “end already”.
But for the Gabbra community in Kenya and Ethiopia, they are no longer in 2020. Last Friday, the Gabbra marked the start of the New Year 2021.
The community’s Almado is a religious and secular holiday which commemorates new life.
Almado is considered a milk-drinking festival, which marks the beginning and the end of the solar New Year, Gumat.
The Gabbra community uses its unique calendar, which counts two months ahead of the Gregorian calendar.
Their calendar has no leap year and falls on definite days for four successive years uninterrupted until there is a leap year in the Gregorian calendar.
Gabbra community elders during the Almaldo prayers at Horonderi village on October 30, 2020.
Jacob Walter | Nation Media Group
The number of daylight hours and night-time hours happens to be exactly equal in every part of the globe once every October, which is one of the reasons the Gabbra celebrate New Year during this month.
During this time of the year, the sun and the moon, which are used to count time, each has12 hours before setting. The Gabbra begin counting their days at noon.
The second reason is derived from the Bible, which says that the creation of heaven and earth took place in October and the sheep is hailed as a sacrificial animal that saved the biblical Isaac’s life.
When the Nation visited Horonderi Village in Marsabit Central, we found the New Year celebration at its peak as all family members sang and danced although in a slightly restrained manner, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to elder Isaack Buri, Almado refers to a time of reflection on man's relationship with nature.
Typically, Almado also symbolises the human rituals of labour and celebration, of feasting and fasting, and simulating planet Earth's sequence of death and rejuvenation.
He said Almado festival marks the beginning and the end of the annual cycle of time and is celebrated by all Gabbra both in Kenya and Ethiopia.
"This a special time of our calendar when we observe and celebrate the rhythms of the year with peace, security, rain, pasture and water being key in our prayer item lists,” Mzee Buri said.
Rituals of peace
The Almado celebrations entail ritual observance of their annual calendar and it is one of the most important rituals of peace celebrated at the climax of a year.
It is a ceremony through which peace is restored and, above all, it plays a vital role in the way the Gabbra record time. They begin counting 365 days following Almado.
A fire lighting ceremony is conducted every 265 days in the year in expectation of a new life since fire symbolises new life to the community.
Turbi Primary School teacher Sharamo Umuro explained that the New Year normally falls almost at the end of October every year.
The peak of Almado is named depending on the prevailing event. For instance, this year’s event fell on a Friday at a time when Covid-19 was reigning terror globally, thus making the climax to be named Friday Coronavirus New Year.
The Gabbra are able, in this way, to keep track of the seasons and can predict when the rains will come.
Based on this count, they move their herds to different fields. Any slight inaccuracy can result in tragic loss of livestock.
Mr Umuro holds that Othola, one of the five clans of the Gabbra community, is mandated to count days accurately to avert any disaster to the community.
Ayya, the top Gabbra parliamentary council, plays the supreme role of ensuring that all celebrations are carried out smoothly. However, each household has a responsibility to take part in the fiesta.
Typically, animal sacrifice is used in the ritual to appease or maintain the favour of the deity and sheep is the choicest animal for such sacred rituals.
A Gabbra elder hands over a traditional milk guard to a child at Horonderi village during their New Year celebrations on October 30, 2020.
Jacob Walter | Nation Media Group
During Almado celebrations, two sheep (olla idat) are tied on either side of the entrance of the camels' enclosure as a symbol of blessing to their livestock.
Two other sheep are tied at the doorposts of the dome-shaped Gabbra huts and sheep's milk smeared on their back as a ritual of invoking blessings.
Fire is also lit in the evening next to the camels’ enclosure just before the camels return and gain entrance into their enclosure.
The camels' enclosure, which is usually made of twigs from an indigenous tree, also has its entrance replaced by a fresh twig of the (gale olta ) tree to symbolise a new lease of life for the camels.
Camels and sheep are considered an integral part of the celebrations and the community feels incomplete without them as they are the source of livelihood, are used for dowry payment and as food.
As a harbinger of the New Year, Almado song is performed by both men and women. A group of young girls also go round the huts singing as they are appreciated by the elders.
The climax of New Year brings the extended family together to attend a succession of events, including the blessing of children as the younger generation to whom the traditional batons are passed.
The whole family comes together to light a bonfire in their backyard and dance around it in circles on the eve of the New Year.
The community elders and married men sit together on the morning of the D-Day on the westward of their manyattas facing eastwards while reciting prayers.
They sit in a line on traditional stools (barchuma). In front of each elder, there is a traditional guard (Chiicho) full of milk, a container of tobacco (katel) and a traditional walking stick (ororo), which is a sole preserve of the family heads.
The prayers end with the children being handed the traditional milk guards and tobacco containers and finally Almado song and dance, where both men and women take part.
These artefacts are also symbols of power, peace, adulthood and blessings.
No stranger is allowed to take part in the sacred celebrations.
A Gabbra man who got married outside the parameters of the Gabbra traditions is also not allowed to play any role since they are regarded as children.
Women play the role of fetching firewood and fire lighting during the climax of Almado, making the fundamental part of the celebrations.
The holiday starts on New Year's Eve when each household comes together to light wooden torches, which symbolise the coming of the new season.
Women are allowed to sit with men during the prayers in case their husbands are away.
All other women are not allowed to spend a night away from home during the holy seasons.
Dilacha Molu, one of the women, expressed her joy that women were also accorded a special place during the Almado celebrations.
“We’re delighted that this is one of the celebrations where women also have a voic,’’ Ms Molu said.
Indigenous Resource Management Organisation (IREMO) CEO Eva Darare appealed for the government to help promote and document constructive indigenous cultural and traditional practices.
The Gabbra migrated to Northern Kenya around the 15th century due to their pastoralist nature. They settled in present-day Moyale, Marsabit, North Horr and the vast Chalbi Desert and southern part of Ethiopia.
The name "Gabbra" has roots in the Somali word “Gabbr", meaning an evergreen plant that grows in the desert.
The Gabbra are predominantly Sunni Muslims.
A smaller percentage still hold to their ancient traditional Oromo-Waqi beliefs and the camel oriented rituals with nominal Sufi Islamic practices.
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