Ethiopian epiphany

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Inscribed in 2019 (14.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© 2018, Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH), Ethiopia

Ethiopian epiphany is a colourful festival celebrated all over Ethiopia to commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. The commemoration starts on the eve of the main festival on 18 January. The eve is known as Ketera, which means blocking the flow of water for the blessing of the celebrants. On the eve of Ketera, people escort their parish church tabot (replicas of the Ark of the Covenant) to Timkete-Bahir (a pool, river or artificial reservoir), transported by a priest of the parish and accompanied by a great ceremony. The people spend the night attending night-long prayers and hymn services, including the Eucharistic Liturgy. Hundreds of thousands participate in the actual festival on the following day – 19 January. The celebration starts early in the morning with pre-sunrise rituals. These are followed by the sprinkling of the blessed water on the congregation, as well as other ceremonies. At around 10 a.m., each tabot begins its procession back to its respective church, involving an even more colourful ceremony with various traditional and religious songs. The viability of the element is ensured through its continued practice, with Orthodox clergies playing a pivotal role: they sing the praises dedicated to the rituals and hymns, carry the Ark, and preach relevant texts.

During Ehtiopian Epiphany, priests wearing ecclesial vestment and holding prayer stick, rum and sistrums perform the rhythm 'Worede World Emsemayat Wuste Mitmakat' (God the Son goes to the place of paptism) in Axum, world heritage site of Ethiopia
In the afternoon of the 18th January, people escorting tabots from their respective churches to the festival site Janmeda. The your are cleaning the road where the procession is to pass by, giving their immense service for successful celebration of Timket.
In the island found in lake Zeway, the tabot (replicas of the Ark of the Covenant) of the parish chruch is accompanied with boats.
Youth singers from the churches' Sunday school praising God with Begena (Ethipian ten string harp) and those who accompany them with traditional songs and dances are at the front line of the procession during Ethiopian Epiphany.
As the tabots (Arks) arrive at Janmeda, priests carrying the tabot stand to the side of the huge tent reserved for their stay overnight. In from of them, priests wearing cloak and holding prayer stick (mekuamiya), drum and sistrums (tsenatsil).
His Holiness, Abune Matthis I, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, seen in the picture with the archbishops immersing the cross into water of the pool 'Timkete-Bahir' and blesses it for sprinkling upon the M'emenan -believers).
Ethiopian Epiphany can be performed by immersing a body in water where a larger pool is available to swim like that of the celebration place of Fasiledes in Gondar as Christ himself was baptized in the river Jordan.
Sunday School youth present their songs during the celebration of Ethiopian Epiphany. The performances and hymns are St. Yared's composition, the founder of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church hymn known as zema.
Youth blewing Meleket, Ethiopian trumpet, in front of the Arks during the celebration of Ethiopian Epiphany in the procession towards Janmeda.
The festival is an opportune moment whereby the traditional dances and songs of the nations and nationalities in Ethiopia are performed. This creates conducive conditions to exchange cultural and traditional values. It also promotes traditional dressing and ornamental styles.