Artist Melat celebrating Epiphany at Gondar

Timket is an Epiphany ceremony held by the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Churches. On January 19 (or January 20 in a leap year), which corresponds to the 11th day of Terr in the Ge’ez calendar, it is observed. Timkat commemorates Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River. The ritualistic reenactment of baptism is the festival’s most famous feature (similar to such reenactments performed by numerous Christian the Holy Land when they visit the Jordan). At a Timkat ceremony in Jan Meda, Ethiopian Tewahedo priests were present. The Tabot, a replica of the Ark of the Covenant that may be seen on every Ethiopian altar (similar to the Western altar stone) and is carried in procession on the head of the priest during Timkat rituals, is lovingly wrapped in fine cloth. The Tabot, which is ordinarily hardly observed by laypeople, symbolizes the coming of Jesus as the Messiah and his baptism in the Jordan. Early in the morning, the Divine Liturgy is held next to a stream or pool (around 2 a.m.). When daylight arrives, the surrounding body of water is blessed, and sprinkled on the attendees. Some of them then immerse themselves in the water to repeat their baptismal vows symbolically. The celebration does not, however, end there. Donald N. Levine recalls a typical celebration from the early 1960s: On Timqat Day, a sizable audience has gathered at the ritual location by noon after returning from home for a little nap. The sacred ark is then led in a colorful procession and celebrations back to its church. The seniors march solemnly, accompanied by middle-aged men singing long-drawn, low-pitched songs and hymns in their own fashion. The clergy, wearing robes and umbrellas of various colors, perform hymns. The youngsters run around with games and may take part in the ceremonies.

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