When the kola nut reaches home, it will tell where it came from.
The kola nut ceremony is undoubtedly Igbo tradition at its best. The kola nut tradition is used for a variety of events, but basically to welcome guests to a village or house. Iwa öjii (breaking of kola) as it is well known in Igboland may vary depending on the occasion and people present at the ceremony. But there is a common understanding in the traditional way of breaking these nuts. To further explain this, let’s consider the occasion of welcoming a number of guests. The host presents a plate with the number of kola nuts (usually from two to fourteen) to the leader of the delegation, who will take the plate and show it to the eldest male member of his entourage. To acknowledge that he has seen the plate, he briefly touches it with his right hand, before it is shown to the other members (in order of seniority). After that, the plate is returned to the host who then takes a kola out of the lot and gives it to his guests saying:
“Öji luo ünö, ökwuo ebe osi bia.”
“When the kola nut reaches home, it will tell where it came from.”
This proverb means that a visitor needs to show the kola nut to his people at home as a proof of having visited a place—a hospitable place, of course.
As we’ll gather to celebrate Easter tomorrow, we will also be “breaking kola” and serving garden egg and ökwa ose as well.
PS: It’s against the Igbo tradition to speak a foreign language while blessing the kola with incantations.