Timket is one of the biggest and most fascinating annual festivals to Ethiopia’s. The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated in the 19/20 January of each year. The 3-day event commemorates the baptism of Christ. The celebration starts on the eve of the main festival where priests take the Tabot (which symbolizes the Ark of the Covenant, containing the Ten Commandments) from each church to a tent at a consecrated pool or stream. Colorful activity of the ringing of bells, blowing of trumpet, the burning of incense, dancing and singing are observed. Everyone men, women, and children appears glorious for the three-day celebration. Dressed in the dazzling white of the traditional dress, the locals provide a dramatic contrast to the jewel colors of the ceremonial velvets and satins of the priests’ robes and sequined velvet umbrellas.
The Tabots rest in their special tent in the meadow, and each hoisting a proud banner depicting the church’s saint in front. The ritual ceremony extends throughout the night. Early the morning the main festival starts after a Mass and sprinkles water on the assembled congregation in commemoration of Christ’s baptism. The Holy water blessed by patriarch dips a golden cross and extinguishes a burning consecrated candle in the altar.
The priests bearing prayer sticks and cestrum, the ringing of bells and blowing of trumpets, and swinging bronze censors from which wisps of incense smoke escape into the air. Following the baptism the Tabots start back to their respective churches, while feasting, singing and dancing continue. The elders march solemnly, accompanied by singing leaping priests and young men, while the beating of staffs and prayer sticks recalls the ancient rites of the Old Testament.
Priests, altar boys, church choirs and thousands of spectators join the procession.
Orthodox priests chanting hymn.