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Artist Addisalem and her friends dancing for Timiket holiday

Timkat is one of the most spectacular religious festivals in the world, despite the fact that very few people have ever heard of it. The orthodox Christian festival of Epiphany, which is observed on January 19 or January 20 in leap years, is unique to Ethiopia. Timkat, which means “baptism,” commemorates Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Lalibela, Gondar, and Addis Abe are the three main locations where Ethiopians participate in mass baptisms each year to celebrate this. The majority of Ethiopians gather at the waterfront at dawn to watch the water be blessed by the priest, to be sprinkled with it, and in some cases, to submerge themselves in it. They typically dress in traditional white clothing for the festival and drape it with a traditional netela, or shawl, for the ceremony. Timkat is a very spiritual experience to participate in, a visually stunning event to witness, and a treasured ancient tradition. Timkat is a practice that is both public and private. Young Ethiopian men who choose the path of the priesthood experience it as a rite of passage in addition to being a significant community gathering and expression of spiritual commitment. This is frequently the result of years of spiritual study and commitment, with aspiring priests having to convince the elders that they are deserving of their ordination right up until the last moment. Each aspiring priest has memorized the scriptures for this journey, which is therefore very personal. All of their food had to be gotten through begging because this spiritual growth includes learning to accept charity. And finally, they are baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox church during Timkat.

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