“Nearly two thirds of Ethiopia’s 94 million population is Christian, and the majority of those belong to the Orthodox church.
For them, Timket — celebrating the Epiphany — is among the most important occasions of the year. It’s is a two-day affair that begins with a procession of “tabots,” holy replicas of the Ark of the Covenant — the sacred chests described in the Book of Exodus as carrying the stone tablets on which the 10 Commandments were written.
“The tabots are wrapped in cloth and placed on the heads of Ethiopian Orthodox Christian priests, who parade the streets en route to the bath. The priests, clad in ceremonial robes, are escorted by drums and by the clapping and singing of worshipers, who hold an overnight vigil until dawn.”
By Ethiopian belief, The Ark of the Covenant, a gold/wood box containing the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s Rod, and a jar of manna, was brought to Ethiopia from Jerusalem by the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Eventually it was housed in the Church of Our Lady of Zion, in Axum, the first Christian city in Ethiopia. The only person allowed to view the revered Ark is a monk designated to be its caretaker for life.
Every year pilgrims world wide journey to Lalibela, Ethiopia, to receive the fulfillment of washing away sins and to celebrate the resting place of the Ark. They witness the Tabot, a replica of the Tablets of Law, onto which the Biblical Ten Commandments were inscribed, being carried by men who imitate the Isrealites.
The Timket Festival is best known for its ritual reenactment of baptism body of water is blessed towards dawn and sprinkled on the participants, some of whom enter the water and immerse themselves, symbolically renewing their baptismal vows
Editor’s note: Original World offers cultural immersion experiences in Ethiopia, including the Timket Festival on the January 16, 2018 tour. We witness the celebration of the Ark of the Covenant and the washing away of sins.