Umuganura, literally rendered “thanks giving day” is Rwanda’s first fruits festival. It takes place as the very first portion of the annual harvest begins to come in. For some 1,800 years, this holiday has been a part of Rwandan culture and it continues to be so today.
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As the first fruits of the harvest can come at different times in different locations or with different crops, there isn’t really a single fixed date for umuganura activities at a local level. And there are different levels of celebration, as families, clans, and the whole nation participate.
Umuganura is a time of sharing the bounty of the harvest with family, friends, and neighbours. Staple foods like sorghum, millet, and boiled maize are enjoyed, and milk in traditional containers is shared as well. Many may also attend or partake in traditional dances, art, drama, or the display of inyambo cattle.
Umuganura is said to have been Rwanda’s de facto national day long before the colonial period, and today, it remains an important time to remember the past, express cultural values, and give thanks for and share the bounty of the new incoming harvest.