Category Archives: Timkat

Melkam Timkat … Timkat explained.

The community at Mequat Mariam parade the Tabot out at TImkat with Ethiopian flags flying

The community at Mequat Mariam parade the Tabot out at TImkat

So tonight 18th January, is the eve of Timkat. Processions made there way across towns in urban areas and over the fields in the countryside, to a place where in the morning the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan river is commemorated. Water will be blessed and the multitudes will be splashed with the holy water and try to take some home with them in bottles. Following this ceremony the tabots (with the exception of Mikael tabots) will be processed back to their church with similar joy, noise, colour and reverence to that with which they were processed today.

Why is Timkat called “Epiphany”, and hey, what is Epiphany? Well it is a Greek word meaning manifestation or appearance, and it celebrates the events in Christ’s life that showed him to be the son of

Priests at Mequat Mariam head to the water blessing

Priests at Mequat Mariam head to the water blessing

God. In the early church (before Rome got into it) this was the major feast in the church after Easter. In Epiphany was encapsulated all the major events that manifested Christ’s Godhood to man: his birth (Nativity) , the visit of the Magi, the turning watering wine at the wedding in Cana, and his baptism in the Jordan river. With the appearance of Christmas in the developing church as a new festival, his nativity was taken out of Epiphany.

So where should you go to see it. In Addis Ababa, head for your nearest place where tabots have congregated, and try to get there quite early (8am). There will be big crowds near the major places such as Jan Meda, and beware of pickpockets! In the countryside similarly head for the tabots resting place early in the morning. Local people

Worshippers jump into the Fasilides baths

Worshippers jump into the Fasilides baths

will tell you when.

In Gondar you will need to seek out a place early in the morning at Fasilidas’ baths. It becomes extremely crowded. Your guide will advise you. The moment of the joyful splashing is the high point. In Gondar youngsters jump into the pool, in Addis the clergy spray the crowd from the water in the pool in the midst of the field. In parishes up and down the country water is splashed from the blessed pool, spring or river in a joyous celebration. Then you can follow the processions.

Melkam Timkat!

 

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Ethiopia prepares for Timkat

Flags put up on the streets of Addis in preparation for the Timkat processions on 18th - 20th Jan

Flags put up on the streets of Addis in preparation for the Timkat processions on 18th – 20th Jan

Preparations are underway for one festival that seems to encapsulate Ethiopia’s unique place in the world: it is Timkat – or ‘Baptism’. It is frequently referred to as Epiphany, which undersells what is a very special and Ethiopian day. In fact it is really spread over 2 or 3 days. And it start tomorrow- Wed 18th Jan (Ter 10).

The programme:   In Addis the Tabot will leave the churches at around 2pm with a big procession, singing of hymns and chants, drumming, horns being blown and dancing to the chants. Icons are processed and most especially the tabots wrapped in brocaded cloth carried on the heads of the high priests under umbrellas. The procession will makes its way over several hours to the special resting point for the tabots. In north eastern Addis Ababa this is Jan Meda (

A Tabot  being paraded

A Tabot being paraded for Timkat

the Royal horse racing fields). At Jan Meda about a dozen tabots spend the night with tents for shelter, and priests and devoted followers. The fields become the centre of the festival for the evening and next day, and for St Mikael Tabots  the next day too. Tens of thousands of people will gather at the fields in the evening, hundreds sell refreshments and nicknacks. The roads around are packed solid.

During the processions roads are closed across the city (and the country) and no cars can pass. Houses beside the route the tabots pass are blessed. Young lads lay down carpets on the road infant off the taboo. They rapidly rolls them up behind and run them round to the front again, extreme hard work and a devotion that illustrates how deep seated are the beliefs and culture of the Orthodox church even in the capital city.

Where to see it?  Head to your nearest Orthodox church, and plan to be there by 2pm. Then you can join in the procession to the fields. Don’t be worried by the crowds, everyone is joyful and will be happy to see you, but do show respect for the priests and the Tabots, dress appropriately (women should cover heads and neither men nor women should wear short clothing – if you have traditional white cotton clothes all the better).  At the convergence points of the tabots thee could be pick pockets at work so be careful of possessions and do not carry unnecessary valuables.

See tomorrow for details of the rest of Timkat!  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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Come & join the Timkat celebration in a Village in Ethiopia

The community at Mequat Mariam parade the Tabot out at TImkat with Ethiopian flags flying

The community at Mequat Mariam parade the Tabot out at Timkat

If you are still unsure what to do next week over Timkat why not come and celebrate with one of the villages on a Tesfa trek.

Timkat is probably the most colourful festival in Ethiopia. Its a magical celebration linked to one of the oldest festival in the Christian – Epiphany. But in the Eastern (Orthodox) churches – Epiphany celebrated the baptism of Christ not the visit of the Magi (as in the western Church). In fact the word Timkat means ‘baptism’.  Epiphany itself refers to the manifestation of Christ’s divinity, and in the original church it celebrated the various points in Christ’s life where his divinity was shown: his nativity (this was before Christmas was celebrated), the visit of the Magi, Christ’s miracles (especially at the wedding in Cana), and his baptism in the Jordan river.

The village at Wajela celebrate Timkat with dancing and singing

The village at Wajela celebrate Timkat with dancing and singing

Timkat in Ethiopia is effectively a 3 day event although only the second day is the holiday and is Timkat. The celebrations start on the eve which this year is 19th January (Ter 10 in the Ethiopian calendar). The Tabots are paraded with colour, dance and singing out of their church compounds and off on a route to what is normally an attractive place if possible by a water source. On arrival the tabot is set up with a tent and the church community will stay with the tabot, some for the night. On the day of Timkat there is a mass before the water source is blessed and with wonderful joy the water is splashed on the onlookers and as much as possible some is collected to be taken home as a holy water.

After this celebration the tabots are taken back to their church with renewed joy and celebration, passing by a different route to bless those whose farms or houses it passes. All tabots except for Mikael tabots, who spend another day camping out as Ter 12 is St Michaels day (Mikael) and interestingly commemorates the wedding in Cana – (Cana Ze Galila). The Mikael day is also very big and the processions are bigger as many of those who attended the previous two days celebrations now come together for Mikael. In some places horses, decorated in colourful pompoms have horse races while the procession goes on.

There is no better day to feel the religious fervour and the deeply held beliefs in the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Whether you witness this in the streets of Addis or in the remote mountains on a Tesfa Trek you will be struck by the passion it arouses in the followers of the church and by the feeling that this is biblical, out of the old testament harking back to King David’s processing of the Ark of Covenant in Jerusalem.

 

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Tesfa Tours New Calendars are ready

Every year we produce a calendar showcasing the Tigray and the Wollo communities. They start in September and end in August. This years calendar is now ready.

2007 Calendar promo.jpg  If you have not seen it before it is a must for anyone living or working here, or interested to visit Ethiopia.

1/ See how the Ethiopian Calendar is so different from the western Calendar. The Ethiopian dates are clearly marked in red along side the western dates.

2/ The major Saints days are shown – you will see there is a saints day almost every day of the month (and I only show the major ones that I chose to show!) If living in Addis you will know why large crowds of people are congregating in white gabis around a church area.

3/ The Annual saints day festivals are noted too – such as Hedar Mikael on the 21st Nov (the major St Michaels day) when rubbish is burned across the country. These are very big celebrations and in many cases the tabots will come out of the church with great celebration and procession. Use these big festivals when planning your holiday –

4/ Know in advance the Ethiopian holidays: Meskal, Gena (Ethiopian Christmas), Timkat (Celebrates the Baptism of Jesus 0f a really big festival), Orthodox Easter (often different dates to western Easter) etc.

5/ Know the fasts seasons in Ethiopia – when they start and end, and see the explanation of the fast in some cases. If you are vegetarian and visiting Ethiopia fasting times mean plenty of vegan food (those fasting refrain from eating any animal produce! except in some cases fish).

6/ Read the commentary on the bottom of each month and understand a little more about why, what , when etc.

7/ Enjoy the fabulous photographs – all taken from community tourism treks in Wollo and Tigray – 11 photos from guests this year – thanks to all who contributed. This should entice you book a trek if you have not already done so.

8/ Support the community tourism development with your contribution. We are suggesting 200 etb per calendar this year

Copies are available from our offices in front of Sandford School and a number of distribution points across the city. We will also post abroad if you can cover the postage cost.  Please let us know if you are interested to receive a calendar – calendars@tesfatours.com

 

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Timkat in Addis

TIMG_3445.JPGhis year, on Timkat eve, I watched the Tabot from my local church in Addis Ababa as it was paraded the 4 kilometres from the church – Yesus – behind the French Embassy, to the Jan Meda – the old Imperial racing fields. It was a colourful and joyful procession, with everyone very happy to see us enjoying their pageant.

The Tabot’s nearest equivalent is the tabernacle and is a replica of the tablets of stone, and is carried shrouded in brocaded cloth on the head of a senior priest underneath a colourfully decorated umbrella. It forms the central part of the parade, alongside icons and other beautifully dressed priests also with more colourful umbrellas. The priests are led by deacons all dressed in white playing the wonderful big drums, and choir groups from the church singing the Tabot down the hill. Others lay out a red carpet before the Tabot, a sign of the importance attached to theTabot. As it passes people prostrate themselves before the tabot kissing the ground.IMG_3485.JPG

Timkat is the festival which celebrates the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan River, and is one of Ethiopia’s most important religious festivals. The word Timkat means baptism, but it is often confusingly translated as Ethiopian Epiphany. For more information on this see the page on festivals on our website.

Jan Meda becomes the centre of Addis Ababa over the Timkat holiday as more than a dozen Tabots converge on the walled field to spend the night there. On Timkat morning mass is said and then the blessed holy water in the baths at the centre of the filed are sprayed on the ecstatic congregation that is gathered around. Many also seek to fill bottles with this holy water to cure any number of ailments.

 

IMG_3471.JPGThen the Tabots are paraded back up to their churches again accompanied by the parishioners. Only one Tabot remains for a second night – that of Mikael, whose annual saints day is the following day – a day that also celebrates the wedding at Canaa – Kanna Zegelila in the Ethiopian Church. The Mikael Tabots are then paraded back up on their special saint’s day with even larger crowds of followers.

It is a joyful and happy three days, and one I would urge people to see. Tourists flock to the traditional historical centres: Lalibela, Gondar and Axum, resulting in overcrowding, shortage of rooms, high prices etc, but it is a wonderful sight in Addis Ababa, or at the Tesfa community sites sharing the day with the local villagers.

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Tesfa Calendar – almost run out!!

Tesfa Tours calendar, a hanging wall calendar, will be available later this week, for a small charge. It shows the wonderful landscapes and people of Ethiopia in the areas in which we organise treks, and gives you a window into the culture with the Ethiopia dates and western dates merged onto one easy to read calendar.
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The calendar runs from 01 September 2011 – 31st August 2012- this more or less coincides with the Ethiopian year that starts on 12 September 2011 and ends next year on 10th September 2012.

Not only is the Ethiopian calendar of 13 months laid out, but the major saints days and festivals are also noted. This calendar-inside-promo.jpgcurrent year is an Ethiopian Leap Year – with an extra day in September (in the 13th month called Pagume) – which means until the western leap ‘day’ comes at the end of February 2012 many Ethiopian holidays (such as Timkat) fall on different western dates from normal. We have also put in a few of the key Ethiopian national holidays and muslim holidays. Fasting periods are also noted. So there is a veritable wealth of information inside this calendar.

You can pick up a copy from our office. We will be asking people who take a calendar to make a small donation to support the community tourism. Details will be made available when we know more….
Please email us if you would like a calendar – calendars@tesfatours.com

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