The Timket festival is one of the ancient festivals that have been celebrated for many years in Ethiopia by almost everyone in the country. Ethiopia has one of the most amazing landscapes on the African continent and with all the other tourist attraction sites that are found in the country like UNESCO heritage sites that are located in the different parts of the country, the coffee farms and the most outstanding culture are just part of the icing that you can add to your Timket tour.
We are going to look at what the Timkat festival means, how it is celebrated and what to expect when you join in their celebrations.
The Timket festival is majorly celebrated by the Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia and it is a celebration about the baptism of Jesus which took place thousands of years ago in the River Jordan. When these festivals are carried out, many orthodox Christians renew their baptism when the priest sprinkle the people with blessed water.
The Timket festival sometimes also known as the Timkat by others take about three days to end and it is known to be one of the best and most anticipated festivals in the whole country. It is not all about the dancing and singing but it is also about the prayers that are said by the priests and tourists are also welcome to join in the festivals.
The festivals of Timkat are celebrated after a series of festivals that always start on the eve of the day and while in Ethiopia you will get to see local priests carrying Tabots which look like the famous Ark of the Covenant and these are carried from one town to the next in commemoration of the Ark of the Covenant that was brought to Ethiopia by Menelik I who is believed to be the son of king Solomon and Queen Sheba. After the priests carrying the Tabots around they take them to the different water bodies from where the festivals are supposed to be carried out the next day.
The Timkat festival take place every year on January 19th on Lunar years and 20th January when it comes to leap years. Although the celebration is done throughout the whole country, it majorly takes place in the capital city of Ethiopia Addis Ababa so if you can make it into the city without a hustle, this is the best place to enjoy the festival but if you fail you can catch it anywhere in the country.
During the procession, everyone id dressed in robes of different colors that are extremely bright and they go on dancing and singing festive songs and they also drum along while escorting the Tabots and this is done to remember how the King David danced and sung while escorting the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel.
On the very day of the Timkat festival, the priests bring in Holy water which has been blessed and they sprinkle it among the large congregation that could have gathered for the ceremony. At the end of the celebrations, the priests escort back the Tabot to church and then people go out to the cities to enjoy the local food that is prepared for the festival.
After looking at the general things that concern the Timkat festival, we are going to look at the major towns in Ethiopia where the festival is a great deal to the locals and these are:
The Timkat festival in the Gondar city
The biggest celebration of the Timkat usually happens in the Gondar city which is referred to as the Camelot of Africa. The Gondar city has a lot of palaces that were constructed by the founding king who was known as the king Fasilides. King Fasilides founded the city after making a stopover at the bath from when he was being chased by a raging buffalo.
Most of the palaces are believed to have been constructed in the 18th century and for all the years that the Timkat festival has been celebrated in Gondar, the Fasilides bath has always been filled water that is meant to be used during the festival.
When you get to Gondar, you will find a spectacular scene of people all dressed in white preparing for the festival and tourists are always welcome to join in. the Bath is filled so that it shows exactly how Jesus was baptized many years ago in the river Jordan by John the Baptist and the Gondar city receives more than 300,000 people who come for the festivals from all over the country and all over the world.
The First day of the Timkat festival sees many women and men putting on colorful clothes that match their jovial moods matching around and singing praises to God as they match with the Tabots that are carried by the priests. The match takes over eight kilometers before it is complete and it normally ends a few minutes before or after sunset.
On the second day, the festivals begin very early in the morning before the sun comes out and you will find many people dressed in white around the Fasilides bath. The women are always kneeling down with their foreheads on the ground deep in prayer while the men can be seen bowing their heads down also dep in prayer and unlike the first day of the festivals that is filled with singing and dancing, this is always a quiet Mass. And since it is always dark by the beginning of the Mass, many people light candles and the somber mood goes on till the sun comes out.
After the Mass on the second day, the priests bless the water and immediately after, many people can be seen jumping into the well with shouts of joy as they renew their baptism vows.
The Timkat festival in Addis Ababa
As we earlier on discussed, the Timkat festival takes three days until it is done and on each day of the festival, there are different activities that are carried out and these are:
The first day of the Timkat festivals finds priests adorned in colorful robes can be seen carrying Tabots on their heads and this is mostly done by the parish priests around the country while other priests follow while dancing, singing and praising. The Tabots are then taken to the wells where the renewal of baptism and the festivals take place.
The second day of the Timket festival is the main day for celebrations and priest can be seen all over the country sprinkling blessed water on the congregation while praising the Lord. When the festivals end for the day, all the rest of the Tabots are take back to their respective churches and only one stays among the people.
It is believed that the original Tabot does not leave the church and it is heavily guarded and it is also said that it was the same one that God handed down to Moses on the Mountain Sinai while giving him the Ten Commandments.
The third day of the Timkat festival marks its end and it ends on the St Michael the Archangel Feast day and it is on the same day that the only remaining Tabot is taken back to the St Michael church and it is followed by the a huge crowd of priests and the congregation who accompany it by singing and dancing.
The Timkat festivals in Lalibela
The city of Lalibela is one of the cities where the Timkat festivals are carried out. The festival in Lalibela also starts almost in the same way as the rest of the cities that is Addis Ababa and Gondar. The only unique thing about the festivals here is that they take place in the rock hewn churches that are found in the area.
The Lalibela region is also famously known for her many rock hewn churches that are spread out in the different parts of the region and although some of them are gender sensitive that is women are not allowed to enter some churches but on the Timkat festival all you get a chance to pass by some.
Many people can be seen putting on white while others colorful clothing as they celebrate the Timkat festival and it is a wonderful experience that you do not want to miss.
Before you got to any of these towns or travel to Ethiopia for the Timket festival there are a few things that you need to put to know that is it can get a bit crowded during the festival and therefore you need to arrive in the cities a day before the first day of the festivals, it is also better to get accommodation near the baths where the Timket festivals are supposed to take place but you need to book early enough so that you get the best prices although during the festival, there is a high probability the prices of everything is always on the rise.