Best Places to Celebrate Epiphany (Timket) in Ethiopia –

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By: Tewodros Sahle

Addis Ababa, January 16, 2023 (Walta) –Timket (Epiphany) is one of the most significant religious and social events for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. It is one of the highest and holiest holiday in the church’s calendar. Timket, the holiday commemorating the baptism of Jesus Christ, is celebrated on January 19 (or January 20 on leap year). The priests carry the tabots (replicas of the Arc of covenants) on their heads down to the nearest water body.

The priests wear highly elaborate ceremonial robes during the ceremony and are protected by colorful, embroidered umbrellas, as they are followed in a procession by thousands of observant, singing, drumming, clapping and dancing. A more reverential moment follows, when the priests arrives at the waterfront or sacred lake, delivers prayers, blesses the water with their ceremonial cross and then sprinkles the crowd with it. This is long awaited moment for devotees. The mass euphorically jump into the water with joy or compete to get droplets of it in search of spiritual healing. Festivities continue for the next two days called Cana of the Galilee where Jesus turned the water into wine at a wedding. The date is equally important Ethiopian Orthodox Christians that they celebrated as colorfully as Timket itself. The date coincides with Saint Michael’s day.

What makes the holiday unique is the fact that it has been celebrated since the introduction of Christianity in Ethiopia. Not only its age long celebration that makes it great, but also the cultural and social values and significance of the holiday. The religious importance for the believers, dressing, the cultural activities and others makes Timket one of the very few colorful; and becomes one of the UNESCO’s intangible human heritages.

Timket is celebrated across Ethiopia but few places do outstand in every way. Below are five best places to have a memorable Timket celebration.


Gondar is an ancient Ethiopian capital city in the north of the country. It was particularly important during the reign of Emperor Fasilides and Iyasu the Great in the 17th century, during this time palaces, castles, and a royal bath were built. It is at the royal bath that is filled with water once a year that Timkat is colorfully celebrated. In Gondar, Timket starts with smaller ceremonies at many churches, followed by colorful parades of choirs and priests, accompanied by the entire populace converging at the piazza. Their final destination is Fasilades’ Bath in the royal enclosure. The celebration continues at the same level of pace and momentum on 20th of January.

The faithful dressed all in white singing, dancing and drumming throughout the journey of the Tabots from the day it get out the church to its return to the churches.

Addis Ababa, Jan Meda

Timket celebration in Addis Ababa is of deservedly colorful and full of actions as it should be, taking the city as residence of the pope and office the church. Decoration and cleaning of streets and paths through which the tabots pass are part of the main preparation which starts few days before the main event. The streets of Addis Ababa are festively decorated in green, red and yellow, the colors of the Ethiopian flag. Believers dressed in all white gather from all quarters of the city to celebrate Timket by singing, dancing and drumming together. On the eve of Timket, known as Ketera, the actual celebrations begin with a procession to Jan Meda- a sporting field and celebration quarter for Timket for over a century. Young people from respective church lead the procession, followed by priests in colorful robes. Congregates from all corners of Addis Ababa converged to Jan Meda accompanying the priests of respective churches to the field. Timket is unbelievably colorful and full of religious and cultural dancing and songs. Jan Meda explodes with excitement of the mass for two days that it is hard to miss the festival.

Lake Batu (Ziway)

Located 160 km south of Addis Ababa, Lake Batu or Ziway is the home of the monastery which once served as exiling spot for the Arc of the Covenant during conflict around 9th century. Tulu Gudo, one of the most famous and the largest island, housed the Arc of Covenant for about 70 years before it returned to Axum.

Timket is celebrated in Batu (Ziway) as colorful as everywhere across Ethiopia. But there is one major difference in here. That is priests and deacons from Abune Tekleheman and Debre Zion monasteries dressed colorfully and carry the replica of the Arcs in a procession of boats from the island to the main land. The laities from respective churches and monasteries join the spectacular boat trip by clapping, drumming and singing hymn. Witnessing the journey and the procession across the lake is quite unique experience not common in other location except at Baher Dar.


Colorful Timket celebration at Eranbuti is recently getting popularity. The holiday has been celebrated there for over 600 years. Eranbuti is within North Shewa Zone, Minjar-Shenkora woreda, about 135 km from Addis Ababa.

About 44 Tabots along with congregates escorting churches of their localities converged into one field by a river. The tourism and culture office said that the river flows from west to east and diverges and rejoins again exactly like River Jordan. For the believers and the church, this has significant importance which they traveled for hours to get to the place from different locations. Throughout the procession, the laities dressed at their best and sing and dance around their local Tabots. The cultural side of the celebration is much more eye-catching at Eranbuti than in the urban localities.

A large number of people from Addis Ababa and nearby towns have frequented the place to celebrate Timket.


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