Anyone who has attended an Igbo wedding knows that they are rich in “Omenana,” or tradition. Whether it is in a village in Nigeria or across the Atlantic in the United States, certain Igbo customs are non-negotiable. One such custom is the breaking of the kola nut.
If you were to attend an Igbo wedding you might find this custom to be long and disengaging, especially if you do not speak Igbo. However, the breaking of the kola nut is an extremely rich cultural practice that signifies peace, unity, sincerity and respect.
Breaking the kola nut is preformed as a welcoming ceremony at a number of different occasions, including marriages, celebrating a birth, welcoming a stranger or friends to your house, e.t.c. The purpose of this custom is to establish a bond between two people or groups, providing reassurance and to invoke the spirit of God for good intervention.
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For instance, at an Igbo wedding reception, the groom’s family presents the kola nut to the bride’s family. The bride’s family accepts the gift and all the guests, in general. When the kola nut is presented to the oldest Igbo man on the groom’s side, he performs a libation, or ritual as an offering to the living and the dead (ancestors) to help intervene and ensure a good outcome to the marriage.
Igbo people strongly believe that at such an important ceremony, the ancestors are together with the living, protecting and overseeing the activities. The libation also seeks God’s protection for a successful marriage.
After the libation, the kola nut is broken and is passed around to everyone else in attendance. People can eat the kola nut alone or with a dip, called “ose-oji.” Ose-oji is made of groundnut, pepper, and a little bit of salt.
Breaking of the kola nut is a vital ceremony that is a prerequisite and symbol of a welcoming invitation performed at various Igbo gatherings.
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