Timkat: The Ethiopian Epiphany

(L to R: Hana, Hannah, and Workinesh L.)

After 2 weeks of vacation the Yaya Girls are back! However, they got an extra day on Monday to celebrate an enormous holiday called “Timkat” – the Ethiopian Epiphany.

Timkat is the celebration of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. Traditionally, a Tabot – a model of the Ark of the Covenant, which represents Jesus as the Messiah – is worn upon preists’ heads. Following a walking procession through public streets usually includes the showering of water on people’s heads to represent the baptism.

IMG_1816A few of the Yaya Girls and myself headed into Addis Ababa to welcome back the end of the program and take part in the festivities. We went to Jan Meda, the largest open enclosed space in Addis. The area is a massive open grass field run by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. It is where the Great Ethiopian Run was recently held and where numerous Cross Country Races take place.

IMG_1796The space was flooded with people and there was no absence of activity. Small soccer/football goals were set up and participants would pay 30 birr to take a shot on goal. Another common game, which I’ll aptly name, “Break the Jebunna,” was set up such that participants would be blindfolded, spun around a few times, and attempt to walk up and hit a Jebunna pot hanging from a Soccer Cross bar.  These games always had numerous spectators jumping up and down and screaming, cheering each other on and making jokes.

Other masses of people were simply dance circles where one person would play a simple melody on a harmonica and participants would take turns dancing. And finally, a group of man stood behind a fence spraying water through a hose at Ethiopians running up to partake in the representational baptism.

IMG_1773Also in the massive festival were walking food vendors, priests selling church paraphernalia, and restaurants providing people with the energy to get through the day.

Ethiopians are a spiritual and celebratory bunch, but I had never quite seen anything like the crowded streets of Addis – hundreds in traditional garb, forgetting any displeasure or sadness that might be present in their lives. Even if just for one day, pure happiness.

By Hannah Borenstein, The Yaya Girls Program Coordinator

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