What is Timkat?
Timkat or Epiphany is the most important festival in the Ethiopian calendar. It is celebrated all over Ethiopia, but the most spectacular celebrations are reserved for Lalibela, an isolated mountain town in the arid north of the country. Lalibela is famous for its unexplainable rock-hewn churches. Over a thousand years ago 11 churches were carved out of solid rock, and many Ethiopians believe they were built by angels.
How is Timkat Celebrated?
The festivities begin in the 3rd week of January, usually around the 19th January. Crowds, all dressed in white, dance and sing in the streets to the beating of drums. Priests, decked out in jewel encrusted velvet and satin robes, carry a replica of Arc of the Covenant called a talbot. They lead grand procession through the streets.
The real celebration begins at about 2am after the processions lead the people to a place symbolic of water baptism. Priests perform mass and bless the water. A communal baptism follows, with the most fervent Christians throwing themselves fully clothed into the water.
What's the History of Timkat?
Ethiopian history teaches that Christianity came to Ethiopia long before it spread to Europe. Missionaries arrived in Ethiopia some 40 years of the birth of Jesus. Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas, when the three kings were said to have bestowed their gifts upon the baby Jesus. This day falls on 6th January in the western calendar.
Here is a video of a young mans personal journey to Timkat.