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Umuganura Day: History and Significance of harvest festival in Rwanda

Umuganura is a Rwandan harvest festival celebrated on the first Friday in August. It is a national public holiday that celebrates the country’s cultural heritage, as well as its accomplishments in different sectors of the economy.

Umuganura, literally rendered “thanksgiving day” is Rwanda’s first fruits festival. It happens as the very first portion of the annual harvest starts to come in. For exactly 1,800 years, this holiday has been a part of Rwandan culture and it keeps on being so today.

Umuganura Day History

The roots of the Umuganura festival can be followed back to pre-colonial times. The name of the festival can be interpreted from Kinyarwanda as “first fruits festival”. In Rwandan culture, it was precluded for a family to eat the fruits of the new harvest before having their elders taste them. So Umuganura was tied in with devoting the first fruit to the family’s ancestors. It was the day of feasting and giving thanks to the ancestors and God.

Umuganura signifies the ‘first-fruits festival’ and can be gone back over 1,000 years. It is one of the most important festivals and holidays in Rwanda.

The significance of a good harvest in Rwanda couldn’t possibly be more significant with 80% of laborers employed in agricultural activities and agriculture representing almost 40% of Gross Domestic Product. Tea and coffee make up almost 80% of Rwanda’s agricultural exports.

Regardless of its long history, Umuganura has just been a public holiday since 2011. Its celebration was smothered during Rwanda’s colonial period.

Umuganura was once again introduced as a national event in 2011. It was started by the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda and supported by the Ministry of Sports and Culture. The main goals of the festival are to respect the rich cultural heritage of Rwanda, to bring the more youthful and older generations nearer together, and to celebrate the accomplishments in different sectors, including agriculture, health protection, education, culture, sport, industry, and tourism.

As the first fruits of the harvest can come at various times in various locations or with various harvests, there isn’t actually a single fixed date for Umuganura activities at a local level. Also, there are various levels of celebration, as families, clans, and the entire country participate.

Umuganura is a time of sharing the bounty of the harvest with family, companions, and neighbors. Staple food varieties like sorghum, millet, and boiled maize are delighted in, and milk in traditional containers is shared also. Many may likewise join in or participate in traditional dances, art, drama, or the display of inyambo cattle.

Umuganura is said to have been Rwanda’s de facto national day well before the colonial period, and today, it stays a significant chance to remember the past, express cultural values, and offer thanks for and share the bounty of the new incoming harvest.

Rwanda is one of the smallest and most thickly populated nations in Africa. It’s a landlocked country that has few natural resources. No wonder that 90% of the country’s populace is occupied with farming. Key crops are grown in Rwanda incorporate tea, coffee, beans, bananas, potatoes, and sorghum. Tea and coffee are significant cash crops for export. With the country’s economy generally relying upon agriculture, it’s no surprise that Harvest Thanksgiving has become a significant public holiday.

The focus of the traditional Umuganura was to give the harvest the blessing of the predecessors. This would happen first at a family level focused on that family’s progenitors, then, at that point, the community would meet up to have a more extensive celebration.

These days, while the festival is as yet seen as having attention on the harvest – giving thanks for the current year and a time to think about how to work on future harvests, it is additionally a chance for a yearly festival of accomplishments from all sectors that add to the improvement of the country.

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