Timket, the Ethiopian Epiphany is among the major Christian celebrations in Ethiopia. The decision of celebration of the holiday in Gondar city gives it special honor as it is to be conducted at the wake of the crashing victory over the enemy. Believers in Gondar and every part of the country are looking forward to the event for its significance beyond comprehension.
Customarily, this holiday is in commemoration of the coming of the Magi from the Far East to Jesus at Bethlehem with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and at the same time the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist. Eastern traditions, which usually call the holiday Theophany, focus on Jesus’ baptism, seen as the manifestation of Christ as both fully human and fully divine.
Thousands of singing and chanting Christians accompany the priests of the capital’s many Orthodox Churches ceremoniously take Tabots, the Holy Arks to designated public spaces in various parts of Addis Ababa, mainly Janmeda (the largest field) in Addis Ababa, where the celebration takes place. Along with this, celebrations similarly take place in all parts of the country at the same time and in the same manner.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, with other similar churches around the world, celebrates it with special form of mass baptism by water sprinkling on the eleventh and twelfth days of the Ethiopian month of Tirr (January) every year. The season of Christmas is completed by Epiphany feast by inviting relatives and friends to discern the identity of the Christ child. The traditions of brewing local beverages, slaughtering sheep and chicken, baking bread and others are extensively carried out.to show the significance of the holiday. In addition believers mark a door lintel with the magi’s blessing, and elaborating worship with lighted traditional candles. Timket, the Ethiopian epiphany, is among the spectacular holidays in Ethiopia in which visitors from many foreign lands flock to Ethiopia to participate in the celebration and worship and at the same admire the grandeur of the programs the Ethiopian Coptic Church officiates. The impressive songs of the priests and deacons and in addition the Sunday school choir lift to heaven the souls of all who happen to be there.
The look fancy participants in the ceremony of the Timket programs are dressed elaborately with the traditional costumes they put on for the special occasion. The whole procession is beautified with various types of brilliantly colorful materials and umbrellas of different sizes which are typical of the Ethiopian Coptic Church. The Tabot or the ark is carried to where the ceremony takes place. A very big procession, filled with awe and adoration, a worship given to God only, follows the priests who carry the Tabot to its place where it stays overnight. Yet, the Tabot from the Saint Michael Church stays at the ceremonial site for two nights and is taken to its church on the third day accompanied by all believers. The devout believers, as well, tirelessly chant and sing religious songs the whole night long. The priests make prayers and conduct other religious performances in accordance to the religious edicts of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia. People everywhere are filled with an overwhelming wonder of admiration. Since the admiration is so strong, it is irresistible that the majority of them stay overnight with the Tabot joyfully with the belief that they would be blessed as a result.
Among the programs is ablution, in which the ritual of washing of feet ceremoniously takes place. It is primarily done by the Patriarch as a show of humility in which case he condescends himself to serve the believers as Christ did for his disciples while he was on earth. It has the implication that the Pope is the servant of the servants of God and the believers in general. Following this example, the believers should do the same to one another. The birth, the baptism, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the manifestation of his love eternal for his creatures, humans. In this particular situation the baptism of Jesus Christ was done by emersion into the fiver of Jordan not by sprinkling; the love he has for his creatures sent him underwater. The emersion signifies dying to the world and living for Christ. Obviously Christianity devoid of humility loses the vital virtue that is expected of it. Christ even though he is the only begotten son of the Almighty God, taught his disciples to be meek and humble if they mean to witness the power of his death and resurrection. He came down to human level to show that man cannot be redeemed with obeying the commandments only but primarily by faith in Him. When a person is baptized it means that he is dead to world and alive in Christ. This is the heart of the Gospel in redemption process and the significance of Timket celebration in Ethiopia.
Ethiopian Epiphany known as Timiket in Amharic word is the religious festival of Christian Ethiopians. Though the Orthodox Christians provide a high emphasis on celebrating the Epiphany (Timiket) festival every 18th of January, other Christian religions pay less attention to the celebration of the festival because of the minor different meanings attached to the whole process of the celebration Epiphany. Here Timket or Epiphany, to be specific, is the commemoration occasion for the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist. It is among the pillars of Gospel of the New Testament, the root of Christianity in Ethiopia and the world at large. For all who are willing to accept Christ as a personal savior and thus the door of salvation is wide open. It is the choice of the individual to accept or not the eternal offer. The saved Christians can win souls to Christ only by love and witnessing but not by force.
Ethiopian Timket (Epiphany) is registered by UNESCO as Cultural Heritage. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) decided to inscribe Timket, which is Ethiopian Epiphany, on the List of Representatives of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Wherever there are people, definitely there is a culture on which the history of that particular country is based whether or not that country has written document. Culture is the development of mind and body of people who own it; it decidedly governs the social issues of a particular group of people and how they should act and manage themselves while interacting. Pertaining to this issue, Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that has her own alphabets to keep the written documents of her culture and history, the very situation that makes her a unique country on the continent. It is a national pride for all Ethiopians wherever they are, be it in the country or abroad. Poverty has not subdued the ever thriving spirit of her citizens.
The first and foremost benefit of winning the recognition of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is that the site gets immediate international recognition, which is a feather in the cap for already protected sites. It boosts tourism. It demonstrates social responsibility. The site can take advantage of network of UNESCO partners.
In principle UNESCO help preserve cultural sites of which it has recognized. It administers a World Heritage Program, which maintains a list of sites worldwide with cultural or natural significance. To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization of a country, which is in existence or which has disappeared.
Partnerships increase Ethiopia’s lease of knowledge, expertise, and resources attached to Timket, her intangible heritage. The situation helps her improvise to make better tourism attraction and reach a greater audience. All of these put together strengthen the economy of the country through tourism industry as external visitors flock into the country skyrocketing the business to great heights. Let’s all head to Gondar for the upcoming Timket celebration!!!
BY JOSEPH SOBOKA
THE ETHIOPIAN SUNDAY EDITION 16 JANUARY 2022