Timket means Epiphany in the Ethiopian Language of Amharic. Although the holiday commemorates Christ’s baptism in the river Jordan and is observed by christians all over the world, Timket has special significance in Ethiopia. It is considered the most important and colorful event of the year. The festival starts on Timket Eve, January 18th.
According to the Ethiopian epic “KebraNegest”, the Arc of the Covenant was taken from Jerusalem to Ethiopia during the first millennium BC. Since then, it has become the most sacred element of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. They believed the real Arc of the Covenant is held in Axum, and each Orthodox Church keeps a replica.
Early afternoon on Timket Eve, the replicas the Arc, covered by silks, is carried by the priests from all the different churches and walk all the way to the nearest body of water. Accompanying the procession are thousands of church members, believers and observers chanting, dancing, beating drums, etc.
As evening falls the priests and pious believers participate in an overnight vigil around the Arcs until dawn. Huge crowds will begin to gather around the water (in Gondar, it is the Fasildes bath). All of the priests and bishops will enter the compound as thousands of spectators and believers pray and watch.
After the head bishop has blessed the water, the celebration has reached it’s climax. Many people jump into the baths, some children will jump from the trees to the bath to be blessed, and others will splash holy water onto onlookers. After the religious vows are renewed, some of the Arcs are paraded back to their churches with the same celebratory fashion.
The festival does not end until the third day which is dedicated to the Saint Michael. Just as the previous processions, the remaining Arcs are carried back to their respective churches with the same excited celebrations.
The Timket festival in Gondar is the most interesting and extensive celebration in all of Ethiopia. The Baths this historical place were built deliberately for the religious procession during the 17th century. The Fasiledes Bath create a dramatic and beautiful backdrop to the event and the gardens surrounding the area provide believers a perfect ground for prayers and the overnight vigil.
I hope you found this interesting. Please feel free to leave any thoughts, questions or comments that you might have.