The Timkat Festival: Ethiopian Festival of Epiphany

Priests walking with the Tabot, the Ark of the Covenant, in a procession through Gondar (Carl Court, Getty Images/ The Guardian)

Today we celebrate the Timkat Festival, the Ethiopian celebration of Epiphany.  This year, it takes place on 19 January, while on leap years it is on 20 January (which is the 10th day of the TerrEthiopian calendar).  It is a celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ on the Jordan River by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13–17; Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21–23).  For the celebrations, pilgrims come from around the country to enact the baptism, celebrating the Epiphany, which lasts 3 days.

Pilgrims at Fasilides’ Castle in Gondar (Carl Court / Getty Images/ The Guardia)

The best place for the celebration is in Gondar at the Fasilides Castle: a Pure Gem of Ethiopia’s Rich History. During the ceremonies of Timkat, a procession headed by the most senior priest is led to the river, carrying the Tabot, a model of the Ark of the Covenant, reverently wrapped in rich cloth. Once the water is blessed, many jump into the water to partake into the renewal of the baptismal vows. It is a great joy, for many believe that the sick are cured. It is a feast of celebration, and processional crosses of varying size and elaboration as well as various Ethiopian artifacts can be seen on the occasion.  Participants wear the traditional shamma, which is a thin, white cotton wrap worn like a toga and as headdress.  The best places to attend the event are in Lalibela, Gondar, or Addis Ababa.

Female drummers during the festival (Carl Court / Getty Images / The Guardian)

Here are photojournals from The Guardian, the Huffington Post, and the BBC on the Timkat Festival; my favorite one is from the Guardian, by Carl De Souza, and the other one by Carl Court. I also liked this article on the wildjunket. Enjoy!!!

Ladies posing near trees during the Timkat celebration (Carl Court / Getty Images / The Guardian)