A team of Ghanaian and Nigerian tour operators, media personnel and tourists took part in the 2020 edition of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s epiphany celebrations in the country’s capital of Addis Ababa last Monday.
The team led by tour operator and CEO of Staple tours and also President of Women in Tourism, Ghana Ambassador Nancy Sam, was made up of Nana Adwoa Adofowaa II, a queenmother from the Eastern Region and representative of Nana Ama Serwaah, President of the Queenmothers Foundation of Ghana.
Others were Abeiku Santana, radio presenter and CEO of Kaya Tours, as well as Hajia Bilkisu Abdul, President of Nigerian Association of Tour Operators and Francis Doku, host of tourism show ‘Travel Pass’ on 3FM 92.7 among others.
Known as Timket (or Timkat), the colourful celebration is one of two very popular events on the calendar of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Ethiopia. The other ceremony is the Meskel Festival, which marks the celebration of the finding of the cross that Jesus was crucified on, and takes place at Meskel Square in Addis Ababa.
Timket, which means “to reveal”, refers to the revelation associated with the Church’s theology which is the unity of God the father, the son and the Holy Ghost during the baptism of Christ.
It is the symbolic celebration of the Baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. The celebration takes place 12 days after Christmas on the 19 January (or 20th January in a leap year).
While there are many followers of other religions in Ethiopia, the majority of people are Orthodox Christians and therefore, always has many people committing time and energy to take part in Timket, which together with Meskel, are declared national holidays in Ethiopia.
The team from Ghana and Nigeria in the early morning of Monday joined thousands of worshippers, all of whom were attired in the traditional white cotton robes, at the humongous grass field of several acres reserved for the purpose and known as Janmeda.
Ahead of the symbolic baptism of the faithful, venerated priests and holy men performed the epiphany service around the baptismal pool as well as several thousand listening to sermons in a large tented area around the vast Janmeda. Many had been there since the previous night to sleep over in the cold Ethiopian weather and await the blessing that would come with the baptism.
The arrival of Abune Mathias, the Patriarch of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church signalled the time for serious work and it ended most of the sermons. Several people in the inner perimeter got close to the baptismal pool, where the Patriarch and his many clergies had been positioned, while the many thousands outside the perimeter got close to the barricades and pushing in on security personal.
On one side of the giant pool was the Patriarch and also where a replica of the ark of the covenant (tabot) stood at the feet of several elders while the opposite side had a golden statue of Jesus Christ being baptized by John the Baptist with water spilling from a jug of water tilted over Jesus’ head.
For about an hour, the final service before the baptism went on with sermons, singing of hymns, parading of huge crosses and a holy book around the pool by the clergy as momentum built towards the baptism. When it came in, it was in the form of sprinkling of water on the people close to him by the Patriarch and then those of the other priests followed.
At this point the thousands of faithful were inching and trying to get close to the pool while the many priests standing on raised platforms and holding water hoses sprinkled water from the baptismal pool on them. This was preceded and followed a cacophony of clapping, shrieking, whistling and shouting by the many thousands gathered to commemorate the baptism of Jesus by John.
Meanwhile, the team took part in the mass procession of the members of different congregations of the Orthodox Tewahedo church on the streets of Addis Ababa. This procession marks the start of the celebration of Timket and takes place a day before (18th Janaury) the baptism of the faithful with this particular one taking place on 19th January. Known as ‘Ketera’, which refers to the making of a dam, as it is common to make a dam in places where there is no river water for the celebration of Timket.
The procession is led by the “Tabot”(replica of the Ark of the Covenant), which is taken out of each church and borne aloft by high priests to the nearest river, lake or pond where the communal baptism is to take place the next day and in this case at Janmeda.
The procession was attended by chanting and dancing crowds in dazzling white traditional robes, which contrasts with the colours of the ceremonial robes and velvet umbrellas of the priests as well as the red, yellow, green of the Ethiopian flag adorning every corner and creating a beautiful kaleidoscope across the streets. The Tabots stayed overnight near the baptismal pool at Janmeda ahead of the baptism the following morning.
The Ethiopian Orthodox church has celebrated Timket across the country and has been doing so since the fourth century. This three-day observance, which is climaxed on the Tuesday when the Tabot from St. Michael’s Church is returned and accompanied by a cheerful crowd who sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, is a solemn observance of faith intermixed with exuberance.
The trip by the Ghana and Nigeria team to Timket Festival 2020 was made possible by Africa’s biggest and most profitable airline, Ethiopian Airlines.