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Timket celebration at Hanan and Blen’s house

The annual festival, which commemorates Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, is held on January 19. Timkat, also spelled Timket, means “baptism” in its literal sense. Smaller satellite celebrations are popping up all over the country in addition to the main festivities, which are typically held in the former Emperor Fasilides bathhouse. Weeks before the celebration, water is diverted to the bathhouse from the castle city of Gonder, and the isolated building, which was sitting in the middle of a deserted pool, is gradually filled with water. The center of the celebrations is Gonder, one of Ethiopia’s most important historical cities and the nation’s spiritual center. People from all over the world come to worship. Ancient buildings suddenly come to life and briefly recapture their former splendor. A buzz can be felt throughout the city’s winding streets and inside the shanty-style shacks that are scattered throughout the area in anticipation of Timkat. The Tabot, a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, is painstakingly wrapped in luxurious cloths in anticipation of its procession to the bathhouse as the day draws near and the pool fills. The Tabot is not frequently seen by the laity and is not frequently taken out of its shire inside the church. The clergy, dressed in a vibrantly colored robe, leads the procession to the church at two in the morning for the divine liturgy. He blesses the bathhouse to start the festivities. The priest sprinkles holy water over the group of people gathered at his feet as dawn draws near and coral streaks cover the sky. Many of the group also dip their heads into the pool as they do this.

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