Millions of people on Saturday celebrated Timket, the annual Ethiopian Epiphany festival, across Ethiopia, with government officials and religious leaders urging the faithful to maintain peace and the world’s intangible cultural heritage.
Saturday’s Timket festivity at Jan Meda, a sports ground in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, started early in the morning with a sunrise ritual. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims joined those believers who spent the night earlier attending long prayers and hymn services.
The hymn services were followed by sprinkling of the “holy water” by Abune Mathias, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and other priests unto the faithful from a big artificial pool which symbolizes the River Jordan where Jesus Christ was believed baptized.
In his message to the faithful, Mathias called on followers of the church to stand for the peace of the country and sustain the longstanding culture of supporting the needy. He stressed that the long-cherished Ethiopian culture of sharing with the disfavored needs to be eternalized and practiced in people’s day-to-day lives.
Addressing the celebrants, Hirut Sentayehu, a representative of the Addis Ababa City Administration, urged the faithful to maintain peace and teach the coming generation about such centuries-old cultural and religious practices. She called on them to use the festival as a means to attract more tourists, instead of misusing it for political purposes.
Recalling that the festival was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) about four years ago, Ethiopian Minister of Culture and Sports Kejela Merdassa urged the faithful to preserve the uniqueness of the festival.
The Ethiopian Epiphany festival is preceded by what is called the “Ketera” celebration that takes place a day before the main festival, wherein tens of thousands of faithful escort “Tabots,” which are miniature versions of the Ark of the Covenants from nearby churches to specially designated places to spend the following night with different spiritual and cultural activities such as prayers, drumming and horn blowing.
The Timket celebration at Jan Meda saw dozens of “Tabots” coming together from different churches. As the celebration ended, the “Tabots” returned to their respective churches with tens of thousands of faithful wearing traditional clothes, who escorted them, singing spiritual songs.