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African Festivals
New Yam


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    The Yam Festival is usually held in the beginning of August at the end of the rainy season. A popular holiday in Ghana and Nigeria, the Yam Festival is named after the most common food in many African countries. Yams are the first crops to be harvested. People offer yams to gods and ancestors first before distributing them to the villagers. This is their way of giving thanks to the spirits above them.

    The Feast of the New Yam was held every year before the harvest began, to honor the earth goddess and the ancestral spirits of the clan. New yams could not be eaten until some had first been offered to these powers. Men and women, young and old, looked forward to the New Yam Festival because it began the season of plenty--the new year. On the last night before the festival, yams of the old year were all disposed of by those who still had them. The new year must begin with tasty, fresh yams and not the shrivelled and fibrous crop of the previous year. All cooking pots, calabashes and wooden bowls were thoroughly washed, especially the wooden mortar in which yam was pounded. Yam foo-foo and vegetable soup was the chief food in the celebration. So much of it was cooked that, no matter how heavily the family ate or how many friends and relatives they invited from the neighboring villages, there was always a large quantity of food left over at the end of the day.

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