Ethiopian Timket’s Colourful Ceremonial Process


As of 6th century, during the reign of Atse Gebre-Meskel, a new tradition of taking the arcs to riversides emerged True to Jesus’ trek to River of Jordan. During the reign of Yekunoamlak (1208-1265) with the support of Saint Tekle-Haimanot a decree came out to further observe the day with added colour.

But each church celebrated the holiday separately before the time of King Lalibella. Thus, king Lalibella (1156-1197), declared that churches found in the same locality should celebrate the day at the same place, and during the reign of Atse Zerayakob (1426-1440), the king ordered that the arcs should be taken to riversides on the eve of the holiday, as documents indicated.

However, it was Atse Naod who declared the people to accompany the Arc when it goes to riversides as well as when it returns to its parish. Therefore, as of 15th century, this practice seemed to have spread to the rest of Ethiopia. Following the founding of Addis Ababa by Emperor Menelik II and his wife Etege Taitu in1886, the celebration started to be marked in Janhoy Meda, north eastern Addis Ababa.There are also a number of sites that Timket, (Epiphany) celebration takes place. In addition, magnificent celebrations are carried out across the nation while the grand-most ones are in Addis Ababa and Gondar.

Addis Ababa City Administration Culture and Tourism Bureau Intangible Heritages Senior Expert Memhir Mekibib Gebremariam told this writer that as Ethiopia is the land of origins, it is rich with diversified cultural assets. This generation should be aware of own cultural assets and value its significance. Timket is a leading opportunity to promote the country’s intangible cultural heritages and inherit it to the coming generations.

According to him, the Timket ceremonial process gives pleasure to everyone who attends the celebration.

Accordingly, Timket plays the lion’s share in preserving the country’s diversified cultural assets and pass down to the present and future generations. During Timket, elders move/ escort the Arcs (Tabots) accompanying it and thanking God, catching their fly whisk as well as small stick sparkled with the colours of the Ethiopian flag. Youths on the other side freely and joyously chant and dance before the arcs. Children are also the main part of the celebration who add more colour and beauty to mark the day with various cultural games and Sunday schools’ church hymns.

Though it is not possible to say that globalization is not posing challenges on the cultural celebration of Timket, luckily, these days, the youths become committed to overcome the impact properly. Currently, it is possible to witness that the youths are clear headed on the value of the untapped intangible cultural heritages of the country. The youth mostly shows commitment towards keeping own cultural assets through wearing cultural attires, giving attention to local music and dancing and so on.

Currently, Timket is solely celebrated colourfully with the gathering of more than tens of thousands of people in Ethiopia in places like Janhoy Meda in Addis Ababa and in Gondar Town. Thus, Timket is exclusively Ethiopia’s unique intangible heritage as no other countries globally celebrate the festival as Ethiopians mark it. The public is enthusiastic to mark the day with joy being invincible to the cold weather at night (while sleeping inside a pavilion or simply on the sky free ground counting stars) or warm temperature during the noon.

Ethiopia is a museum of heritages. It has diversified street ceremonial occasions [ritual and cultural] that are attended by huge get together of peoples. Among this, Timket and Meskel [Commemoration of the Baptism of Jesus and Founding of the True Cross respectively] are the prominent ones. On these two huge street festivals, participants of the ceremony express their merriment, demonstrate their unity in diversity and pray to attend the next Timket Festival with a better hope and success.

On Timket day, people are seen wearing splendid cultural dressing and adorning themselves with various traditional clothing and cosmetics. Even if Timket is religious ceremony, people of various backgrounds and religious beliefs attend the secular part of the ceremonial process.