The harvest of new yam is usually during July and August of every year. At the palace of the Ọọni of Ife, Adeyeye Eniyan Ogunwusi, the New Yam Festival was celebrated with kings, chiefs, men, women, and children bringing in yams and paying homage to the king. There were harvested corns in their numbers too.
To celebrate the new yam festival, tubers of yam and corn were roasted and the roasted tubers of yam were portioned by an important figure who gave the Ọọni and other dignitaries seated around him to eat alongside palm oil.
In the end, people were given raw yam tubers in their numbers to take home for themselves. The new yam festival in Yoruba land usually comes with great celebrations.
Historically, the new yam festival is an interesting occasion commemorated annually by almost all of the ethnic groups in Nigeria. It usually takes place around the end of July, while some people still consider it taboo to eat the newly harvested yam before this date. The community’s high priest sacrifices a goat and pours its blood over a symbol representing the god of the harvest. Then the carcass is cooked and a soup is made from it, while the tubers of yam are boiled and pounded.
After the priest or the traditional ruler must have offered prayers for a better and bountiful harvest in the coming year, the New Yam Festival feast would be declared open by eating the pounded yam and soup. Then everyone partakes in the merriment that accompanies the New Yam Festival after which the people are now traditionally permitted to begin the consumption of new yam.
A highlight of the New Yam Festival, particularly among the Yoruba people, is the divination rite that determines the destiny of the community and the likelihood of an abundant harvest. One of the recently harvested tubers of yam is taken and divided in two. The two parts are thrown up in the air, and if one part lands face up and the other face down, it is considered a very promising sign. If both fall either face up or face down, it is taken as a bad omen.
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