Ethiopians mark crucial calendar celebration in color, style, prayers.


Millions of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, on Wednesday 18th January 2023, began major activities marking the fourth intangible heritage of humanity, next to Meskel, the Geda system, and Fichee Chambalala – the Epiphany, or Timket, reminiscent of the travel of Jesus Christ from Galilee to River Jordan and his baptism by John the Baptist.


The festivities begin when high priests of the church depart from monasteries sited on five of the lake’s islands, flanked by clerics covered in robes of red, blue, white, and gold, all, in procession to mark Christ’s baptism, one of the holiest days on the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar.



Lake Ziway, 75 miles south of Addis Ababa, is the chest of this annual unique festival. In honor of the festival’s theme, believers accompany, the talbot, a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, to this local lake in an air of great festivity. The night is used up for praying and singing hymns, and by morning the congregation is blessed with holy water from the now-sanctified lake, using a hose. Some worshippers choose to submerge their faces directly into the lake, while children splash and play in the shallow ends, afterwards, the talbot is brought back to its church in a flamboyant parade.


The priests ceremoniously carrying the talbots, to their designated public spaces were accompanied by tens of thousands of singing and chanting faithful. Night-long prayers; including the Eucharistic Liturgy, precede the main festival on Thursday.

Abune Mathias, a patriarch of the Orthodox Church makes benediction and prayers, just before sprinkling holy water on the his benediction, the revered priest said the celebration was a reminder of the need for love, peace, and compassion, and love.



Similar rites took place across the country, including Gondar City, with faithful attending the festival in places designated for the festival. Each Talbot is returned to its respective church with an even more colorful ceremony with crowds singing spiritual songs.


The Epiphany, coined from the Greek word epiphaneia, meaning “manifestation”, is also called Feast of the Epiphany, Theophany, or Three Kings’ Day. It is fundamentally a Christian holiday honoring the first manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, and the manifestation of his holiness, as recorded at his baptism in River Jordan, and at his first miracle, at Cana in Galilee.



Aboard paddle boats called “tankwa”, motorboats, and kayaks, fashioned from stems of the Papyrus plant, laden with crosses and other icons, devotees dressed head-to-toe in white, crammed into whatever vessels they could find, converged on lakes.

For about two hours, the boats circle the “talbot” as those aboard sang and clapped before returning to Tembel, the lake shore.


45-year-old father, Tariku Tadesse, who traveled from Addis Ababa with his wife and two children to attend the ceremony for the first time, says “I chose to come here because first, it’s not far from Addis and also because it is unique. The ceremony starts and finishes on the water.”

Dazed economically by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the gradually receding conflict in Ethiopia’s north, Ethiopia continues to count on tourism as a source of optimism for many.


The deputy director of the Regional Tourism Commission, Nega Wedajo, says, confidently, that “bringing back tourism is very important,” pointing out that “the situation has improved” and that the country’s tourism industry is ready to launch to a higher height.

Also, local authorities are hopeful that through the Timkat celebrations, which have already put Gondar, a city west of the country, on the tourist map, their region will be promoted adequately.

The Ethiopian Federal police confirmed that the celebrations across the nation concluded without any security glitches.

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