Foreigners come to Gondar and staggering with the turning place of historical, political, and social display. This stunning is not only because of the historical circuits of north in Ethiopia but also Timket make again Gondar that binds people all over the world every year.
The French photographer Eric Lafforgue, who travelled widely in Ethiopia offer a unique insight into one of the world’s oldest Christian ceremonies-Timket. He said “go to Ethiopia join Timket in Gondar and the great pomp will tell you more about the mysterious of the country. Of course this feature story will tell you how Gondar springs to life every January for Timkat, the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany.
This is why Diane J. McDougall says ‘Being there was just like making a leap in the past – it felt like being in the Bible. All the women in white clothes and all the priests singing melancholic tunes for hours – some with very old crowns on the head, making them look like kings from an ancient time…’ as he was proud of being in Timket.
In Gondar, eight different churches start their three-day affair with colorful parades of choirs and priests — accompanied by the entire population, it seems — begin blending like a river’s tributaries until they meet at the piazza. Their final destination is Fasiladas’ Bath, about 2 kilometers away.
The three-day lively festival in January deep solemnity of faith intermixed with exuberance; the stark white of ceremonial dress dotted by flashes of color; ancient ritual captured on smartphones and tablets tells a lot in its procession.
On the other hand “While for most of us, January means cutting down on alcohol and getting to grips with a new workout regime, for Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians, it marks one of the most colorful celebrations of the year.” Mark said from America. This shows foreigners who are experienced and enjoyed in Timket stand promoting and bountiful priorities to come to Ethiopian Epiphany than traditionally January meant in western.
In Gondar the procession of Timket; Tabots are wrapped in cloth and placed on the heads of Ethiopian Orthodox Christian priests, who parade the streets route to the bath. Each church’s high priest is swathed in colorful robes, with the Tabot concealed in more layers of fabric high atop his head. He’s surrounded by other richly clothed priests, all protected from the beating sun by spectacularly embroidered umbrellas. As this huddle moves forward a few steps, young men roll up the rug recently trodden and prepare to dash with it to the front of the procession, to lay it down again. The priests and many celebrants will spend the night in vigil, gathered by small fires as they await the apex of the celebration the next morning.
There are services following morning which culminate in the priests blessing the waters of the historic bath, while onlookers crowd every nook surrounding the bath — some getting a pristine view from nearby trees. When the priests are done, the mood turns jubilant, and the spectators rush to jump into the pool. “The water is blessed in the name of the Holy Trinity … in the name of God. The water is now sacred, and the sick shall be cured,” explains Ezra Addis, the head priest at the local Medhanelem Church. “That is why the young people who jump in first get excited; it is a spiritual love,” he adds to Natrajan, India. “I’m amused to watch numerous “junior” priests capture the unfolding action on their smartphones while BBC camera crewmen drag their cables back and forth at pool’s edge.”
Jon Michael from Germany said, “I’m struck by the intricacy of the hairstyles, the generous spontaneity of the smiles and the level of energy. The joy that surrounds us reflects the optimism of the holiday itself — the beginning of all that Jesus would do for mankind during his time on earth.” Of course along with its religious and spiritual value, Timiket is a cultural event where the public sings cultural songs, performs traditional dances and other social displays.
As the afternoon winds down, people begin to leave the pool and head back to the streets, but the festivities aren’t quite over. Each Tabot is now paraded back to its respective church with crowds of onlookers eager to get one last look at them. Back at the churches, it’s a different, quieter scene. Congregants fill the church grounds to listen in on a final service, and after a closing prayer it’s time to send the Tabot back inside the church to its resting place.
For George, Michael, Smith and other foreigner’s the endless scenarios below keep their attention. Geoge’s netela, wrapped around his head and neck, keeps him warm, the local people eventually return to their homes for a special feast, but in the meantime, the celebrations on the streets of Gondar continue — a chance for orthodox Christians to celebrate and come together for one of the most sacred and festive days of the year.
Overall, Ethiopia is a land of consequently many wonders – cultural, geographical and historical – that undoubtedly surprise and amaze foreigners. Like the captivating mass epiphany of Timkat, the incredible 12th Century rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the 17th century castles of Gondar, as well as the 3,000 year-old stellaes of Axum. Let’s change the tradition of dejection our greatness.
By Fekadu Alemu