Ketera,Epiphany eve, celebrated across Ethiopia

Ketera, eve of Epiphany (locally known as Timkat) ,is celebrated across Ethiopia. There have been reports of hostility from radicalized ethnic nationalists in Oromo region of Ethiopia.

Ketera _ Addis Ababa
Ketera celebration in Addis Ababa. Photo credit : AMMA

borkena
January 19, 2020

Timkat is one of holiest religious holidays in the tradition of Ethiopian Orthodox Church , also known as Ethiopian church. It represents  the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ in the river Jordan in the hands of John the Baptist. 

From the point of view of Ethiopian Church theology, one of the significance of baptism is the revelation of Trinity. As  Jesus was being baptized, the Word of God the father came from Heaven came from heaven saying Jesus is the true son and then the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a Dove. That is one of the instances  the trinity is revealed, based on the teachings of the Ethiopian church the story of which is in Mathew’s gospel, chapter three.

Timkat, however, has a tremendous cultural significance to Ethiopians as well. This three days festival, in some places longer than  that, is celebrated across the country.

It starts with Ketera which is essentially the eve of the celebration. Priests carry the replica of God’s Ark to a designated place of  baptism, usually a river side as in the tradition of Jesus’ baptism, in a solemn procession with the laity following behind chanting and singing. 

With growing economic significance of the festival in the form of attracting tens of thousands of tourists, Ethiopian government seem to be increasingly placing emphasis in promoting it as a sort of cultural event.  Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has conveyed a message of best wishes for Ethiopian Christians.

Ketera was celebrated across the country, according to local sources.  It is celebrated more colorfully in Gondar where as many as two million people are expected, including tourists. President Sahlework- Zewde and first lady, Zinash Tayachew, among others, have arrived in Gonder for the celebration. 

Ketera Gondar _ Timkat
Ketera celebration in Gondar. Photo credit : Amhara Mass Media Agency (AMMA)

There have been reported setbacks, mostly radical politics,  for the celebration in some parts of Ethiopia. In Oromo region of Ethiopia, radicalized political forces have mobilized radicalized ethnic Oromo nationalist youth  against the Ethiopian church to disrupt the celebration. There was a reported clash in Harar, for example, according to citizen report although government media outlets failed to report about it. 

Even in the capital Addis Ababa, radicalized ethnic Oromo nationalist youth tired to disrupt celebration in the Holy Trinity Menbere Tsebaot church. In fact, authorities within the security apparatus seem to have ordered the banning of Ethiopia’s traditional flag which the call “illegal.” And that has caused not just disenfranchisement but also concern about Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed administration’s apparent adherence to practices that TPLF leaders used to pursue religiously. 

However, the celebration in most parts of the country, including in Mekelle, northern Ethiopia, was colorful. 

What makes Timkat celebration unique this year is that it is for the first time to be celebrated after it is recognized as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.     



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