Timket (Epiphany)

The festival of Timket is celebrated on January 19th (20th in a leap year) and it commemorates the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in Jordan River. This differs from Epiphany known by the Western Christian Churches where the revelation of Jesus, the son of God, is commemorated on January 6th, symbolized by the visitation of the Three Wise Men. One of these, Balthazar, is believed to be a king from Ethiopia locally know as Bazen.

Timket is the biggest celebration of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church of the year. Visitors are often recommended to join the celebrations in Gondar or Lalibela, but Addis Ababa and Axum are also well worth to visit during Timket.

The day before,

Ketera The celebration start in the afternoon before the main festival, this is known as Ketera. The Tabot (replica of the Ark of the Covenant) of each church is taken out of the Makdas (holy of holiest) and in a colorful procession taken to a waterbody (river, lake, pond) which is the main site of the festival. Different processions carrying the Tabots will join together along the way. Chanting and dancing crowds follow the procession.

The Tabots stay overnight near the water where Timket is celebrated and ceremonies continue during the night. Gondar and Axum have big waters where Timket is celebrated: the Bath of Fasilidas and the Bath of the Queen of Sheba.

The big day, Timket

Early morning on the day of Timket everybody congregate before sunrise around the water and prayers, songs and dances are performed before the water is blessed. The faithful are now more than ready to renew their baptismal vows by the holy water and a run on the water will emerge.

Later in the morning the Tabots begin their journey back to the churches It starts with a huge procession with all Tabots together and at different places the procession halts to perform rituals. As the day before huge crowds, singing and dancing, join the procession. It takes the better part of the day before the procession breaks up to return the Tabots to the churches in the afternoon. Crowds will stay around the churches to celebrate.

The day after, Archangel Michael

One Tabot remains at the festival site, the one consecrated in the name of archangel Michael. The next day is one of the three big annual celebrations to commemorate archangel Michael. Again a colorful procession will take this Tabot back to the church. If you are traveling to your next destination this day you will certainly catch up with the celebrations somewhere.