Select Lang:

Timkat (Epiphany)

Timkat (which means ‘baptism’ in Amharic) is the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany. It is celebrated on January 19 (or 20 on Leap years), corresponding to the 10th day of the month of Ter following the Ethiopian calendar. It is the celebration of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.

During the ceremonies of Timkat, the Tabot, a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, which is present on every Ethiopian altar, is reverently wrapped in rich cloth and borne in procession on the head of the priests. The Tabot, which is otherwise rarely seen by the laity, represents the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah when he came to the Jordan for baptism. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated near a stream or pool early in the morning (around 2 am). Then the nearby body of water is blessed towards dawn and sprinkled on the participants, some of whom enter the water and immerse themselves, symbolically renewing their baptismal vows. But the festival does not end there.

By noon on Timkat Day a large crowd has assembled at the ritual site, those who went home for a little sleep having returned, and the holy ark is escorted back to its church in colourful procession. The clergy, bearing robes and umbrellas of many hues, perform rollicking dances and songs; the elders march solemnly with their weapons, attended by middle-ages men singing a long-drawn, low-pitched haaa hooo; and the children run about with sticks and games. Dressed up in their finest, the women chatter excitedly on their one real day of freedom in the year. The young braves leap up and down in spirited dances, tirelessly repeating rhythmic songs. When the Holy Ark has been safely restored to its dwelling-place, everyone goes home for feasting.

e.