5:21 pm - Thursday July 20, 6975

Ethiopian Epiphany-Timket - By Ezeg-The olympia

Ethiopian Epiphany-Timket

(personal observation, January 2021)

By Ezeg-The olympia

On 19th January 2021 (12th January 2013 Ethiopian Callendar) nearly all major streets of the capital of Ethiopia-Addis Ababa-have been decorated by tiny green, yellow and red banners of the Ethiopian flag along with balloons of the same color loudly declare what a big holiday it is for the Orthodox Christians .  

Families well dressed up for the occasion, with the beautiful traditional costumes with the  intricately embroidered  Ethiopian Orthodox crosses are a feast to the eyes. Woven cotton dresses embellished by various patterned designs attest the skill of the  weavers and are a metaphor of the interwoven fabric of the Ethiopian society.

Around Addisu Gebeya ( northern part of Addis Ababa),  a very young girl, probably nine years old , totally captured the attention of  the people as she strutted among the crowd fully attired with the greenish uniform of the patriotic forces who valiantly fought the Italian fascists . Her hair sprouting out of her cap, emblazoned by the Ethiopian flag, engulfs you with inner pride and fills you with renewed hope that the young generation , regardless of the sinister efforts of so many to shred the fabric of Ethiopian nationalism , will fend off the onslaught. 

Snippets of spiritual songs blare from  huge loud speakers from one compound. One particular one shakes you to the core ,  “I am standing at your gate My Lady..” The plaintive voice of the singer evokes an image of a suffering soul groveling at the gate of the church begging for the intercession of The Virgin to take her into her fold. Even a hard core atheist would be moved by the angelic voice of the spiritual singer .

The chanting of the clergy , the drifting  incense smoke ,the ululation of the women mixed with the booming sound of the drum and soft sistra and bells puts you in a trance.

A choir of young girls and boys with snow white robes swaying back and forth and moving their arms sideways to the beat of the chorus is a pleasure to listen to and watch. The yellow shiny strip running along their robes and the crowns they are wearing accentuate their movement. 

The other groups of young men are buzzing like bees at the front and the back of the Tabot ;the ones at the front roll out the carpets while the ones at the back roll in the carpets and carry them at the front to be rolled out on the ground for the holy Tabot to walk on . Their energy and dedication is amazing. 

Wheel barrows filled to the brim with red prunes dot the streets . The lime has lost its august position of being the projectile of choice to get the attention of beautiful ladies. Not that it has lost it allure, it is  just a matter of affordability ,a lime costs a fortune nowadays!!A popular ditty has modified the lyrics to reflect the replacement of the sweet smelling lime by the hot red prune(prim).

Peddlers loaded with trinkets cry out and demonstrate their wares to attract would be buyers. Little kids trotting along their parents, their eyes bulging out of their sockets, plead silently to get one of those exotic toys.

A lone man walking along with the crowd seems to be overwhelmed by the flood of memories of bygone days. He is enjoying the festivity around  him . At the same time the sense of detachment is too much to bear as it has been an awfully long time since he celebrated Timket . The colorful holiday has lost its luster in his dim memory .  Nevertheless , he is floating along and absorbing the whole festive mood . 

The tented compound where all the Tabots congregate to spend the night is already filled to capacity . St. Urael’s clergy together with St. Mary’s church regaled the crowd with an amazing chanting and dancing . After the performance the Tabots entered in their designated tents . The crowd started to disperse . Most would come back to attend the benediction ceremony, which starts very early, of the pool of water to sprinkle and baptize the laity in the morning . 

The pope and the priests sprinkle the crowd by a water hose as it is impractical to do it the traditional way of scooping the holy water by hand and dousing the congregation .

The religious rite wrapped up peacefully .

 Flirting young ladies and boys took center stage to show off their dancing skills and singing talent .

Certainly, Timket towers above all Ethiopian Orthodox Christian holidays. The apt expression , “letemket yalhone kemis yebetatese”, sums it up brilliantly .

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