*The New Yam Festival In Ukpoke*

In the month of September every year, when new yam festival will be approaching, Ukpoke will be in festive mood. It is an occasion for giving thanks to the gods and the earth goddess which we assume to be source of all fertility to the land. The (UKHIMI) in the road to farm called (ALUIHIATOR) is the place where sacrifice will be made to please the gods of the earth. The Odiowele’s would visit Aluihiator to make sacrifice to the gods so that their fore fathers will bless Ukpoke with long life and fruitful years and a good harvest.

Before the new yam festival is held every year, in Ukpoke the road to the farm will be cleared by the community in Ofuri market day before the harvest begin to honour the earth goddess and the ancestral spirit of the clan. New yams could not be eaten until some old and new yams will be brought together in Odionwele’s house to make portage and cooking materials will be gathered in Odionwele’s house for the feast. Men and women, young and old, looked forward to new yam festival because it begins in the season of plenty. All cooking-pots calabashes and wooden bowls will be the thoroughly washed specifically.

The new yam festival was thus an occasion for joy throughout Ukpoke. The festival will be celebrated in a day; everybody that comes will have enough to eat. Then, when the portage is fully prepared, the Odiowele would bring “ELEPHANT MEAT” (Elameni) that was kept in the smoke, it will be washed and put into the portage with some other ingredients such as crayfish, onion, pepper, some herbs, that will serve as vegetable that can cure ailment especially stomach pain to enable everybody eat much of the portage when prepared. Before the new yam festival, the senior sons of every home must not eat new yam until the festival is done.

When the portage is ready, the Odiowele will ask everybody to come around the pot; anybody that can put hand into the hot pot and bring out the elephant meat(Alameni) will be given an award and the person will be regarded as a brave man. Everybody present in the occasion will be prayed for before the eating of the of the new yam by the Odiowele; long life, prosperity and fruitful years will be made for Ukpoke land children far and near.

To the carnally minded man, IHUELEN is to worship the gods. The festival is meant basically for holiday or a period of rest, after a hard work all through the farming season. It is a known fact that African farmers hardly have time to rest. January is the only free month when the work is less in the farm and harmantan period. Those types of festival usually take the form of Ighele which involves the offering of sacrifice, worshipping of some gods. But the festival has no such link. In Ukpoke, it is purely to celebrate and commemorate the the in-laws who married their daughters who never pay homage to their in-laws. The Ihuelen festival is not to worship god because Ogiole was human being not a god. He is the forefather of Uweghan.

The shade is normally cover with palm leaves; these shade signifying that there are festivities in the land. Time is taken to ensure that all food items and drinks ( e.g. palm wine) to last for three days are brought from the farms and stored at home.

It is unfortunate that God did not bless Uhiele with source of water. Hence, people collect and store water in every available container because a lot of water will be used for cooking, bathing and washing, during the festive period. Most houses have constructed underground water tank, which is the modern way of storing water. Usually, animals like goat, sheep and others, would be killed for food during the festival. The children feel very happy because neighbouring villages would come and celebrate with them, while the rich men invite dances in their domain. In the afternoon on the first day, a large crowd of visitors will be coming through the road to the community. The relations in far and near places, bring along with them presents in form of drinks, tubers of yam, kola nuts, soup ingredients, which served as opportunity to pay traditional homage to their fathers and mothers in law. Visitors starts to arrive especially to match the colourful processions of indigenes, which have being away for long time. The people remarked that there is no house you will enter that there is no surplus of food of any kind, during this festival.

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