Timeket Festival Gonder

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The Ethiopian Orthodox faithful celebrate Timket — or Epiphany,representing Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River — all across Ethiopia each January. But for the grandest experience of all, many travel to Gondar, a castle-filled city that surrounds the festivities with just the right amount of drama.On the eve of the holiday, the tabots (sacred replicas of the Ark of the Covenant) are wrapped in cloth and carried by priests to the Fasiladas’ Bath. There, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated in the wee hours of the morning, culminating in the moment when the tabots are immersed in the 17th-century pool.

Many of the celebrants join in, submerging themselves as a symbolic renewal of their own baptisms, before singing, dancing and feasting begins.

The celebrations start from the eve of the festival which is on 18th January at 2 pm local time with traditional horns that herald the celebrations with colourful processions and ceremonies. The main ceremony commences with the priest solemnly carrying the Tabot which is a model of the Ark of the Covenant, reverently wrapped in rich silk cloth to the nearby stream at around 2am on 19th January. The Tabot is a representation of Jesus as the Messiah when he came to the Jordan River for baptism. The Holy Ark is immersed in the water by one priest whilst the other chants some prayers. Once the Ark is baptised, the priest then blesses the water body and sprinkles some of the blessed water on the devotees. Thereafter the Holy Ark is carried back to its church amidst lots of chanting, music, and dancing.

Each church’s high priest is swathed in colorful robes, with the tabot concealed in more layers of fabric high atop his head. He’s surrounded by other richly clothed priests, all protected from the beating sun by spectacularly embroidered umbrellas. As this huddle moves forward a few steps, young men roll up the rug recently trodden and prepare to dash with it to the front of the procession, to lay it down again. Tag teams of rug-rollers hustle back-and-forth endlessly under a bright sun. 

In contrast to the priests’ vestments, most Ethiopians are draped in various layers of white, with threads of color as accent. 



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