Timkat Festival

19-20 January

The Epiphany, celebrated by Christians around the world, is the remembrance of when Jesus was baptised in the River Jordan.

In Gonder, however, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrate the festival (called Timkat or Timqat) with some unique additions. The festival occurs on the 19th of January every year, attracting the religious and tourists alike. The Ark of the Covenant, which has special significance to Ethiopian Christians, plays an integral role in the festival. 

The festival begins on the eve of Timkat with the Divine Liturgy.  The body of water is blessed and participants undergo a symbolic baptism with the sprinkled waters. By midday, large crowds gather to follow a long procession carrying a representation of the tabot. The model of the Ark of the Covenant is veiled and taken back to the church, accompanied by singing, dancing and a good deal of celebration. 

At Fasiladas’ Bath, in Gonder, the festival has a decidedly festive feel. Participants renew their religious vows as normal, but the baptism usually involves many of the faithful jumping in the waters together in contrast to the more modest sprinklings at other sites of celebration.

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