Epiphany-Timket-Festival-in-AddisAbabaTimkat (Amharic: ጥምቀት which means “baptism”) (also spelled Timket, or Timqat) is the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany. It is celebrated on January 19 (or 20 on Leap Year), corresponding to the 10th day of Terr following the Ethiopian calendar. Timket celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. This festival is best known for its ritual reenactment of baptism (similar to such reenactments performed by numerous Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land when they visit the Jordan); early European visitors confused the activities with the actual sacrament of baptism, and erroneously used this as one example of alleged religious error, since traditional Christians believe in “one baptism for the remission of sins” (Nicene Creed).

This is an extremely colourful three-day festival commemorating the baptism of Christ.The night before, priests take the Tabot (which symbolizes the Ark of the Covenant) containing the Ten Commandments from each Church. Concealed by an ornamental cloth, it is taken to a tent, close to a consecrated pool or stream, accompanied by much ringing of bells, blowing of trumpets and the burning of incense. In Addis Ababa many tents are pitched at Jan Meda, to the northeast of the city centre. At 0200 there is a Mass, and crowds attend, with picnics lit by oil lamps. At dawn the priest extinguishes a candle burning on a pole set in a nearby river using a ceremonial cross. Some of the congregation leap into the river. The Tabots are then taken back to the Churches in procession, accompanied by horsemen, while the festivities continue.

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Legend has it that the cross upon which Christ was crucified was discovered in the year 326 by Empress Helen, Mother of Constantine the Great. Unable to find the Holy Sepulchre, she prayed for help and was directed by the smoke of an incense burner to where the cross was buried.

In the Middle Ages, the Patriarch of Alexandria gave the Ethiopian Emperor Dawit half of the True Cross in retum for the protection afforded to the Coptic Christians A fragment of the T rue Cross is reputed to be held at the Gishen Marien monastery which is about 70 kilometres to the northwest of Dessie.

On the day of the festival, bright yellow Maskal daisies are tied to fronds, and piled high in town squares. Colourful processions carrying buming torches converge on to the square, where a pyre is lit and the celebrations continue until dawn. In Addis Ababa, the celebrations take place in Maskal Square, to the southeast of the City centre.