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Timket: When Cold Drowns Away In Water

Meron Abraha

It has been very cold these past few days. While it’s typical of the season for such a chilly weather, Eritreans have a legend that believes the cold and the icy winds supposedly drown away in the Timket water… That’s nothing short of some sort of traditional meteorology techniques.

All we have to do now is just wait a couple of days to see if that legend will deliver its promise. Because after two days, that is on Monday January 19, Christians will celebrate Timket, the typical religious festival commemorating the anniversary of the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan by John the Baptist.

Timket, or Epiphany as it is commonly known in English, at times create confusions in the naming. While Timket literally means baptism, Epiphany, especially in the western countries, evokes a different significance: the visit of the Three Wise Men, which commemorates the first revelation of Jesus Christ as the Savior. That could probably explain the choice of the word Epiphany, which comes from the Greek word epiphaneia meaning appearance.

Timket has been observed starting from as far as 200 AD in the Western churches and is sometimes called the Twelfth Day. In fact, in the Julian calendar, which the Eritrean Christians (including Eastern Churches) observe strictly when it comes to religious holidays, Timket always falls exactly on the twelfth day after Christmas.

In Eritrea, the day is particularly celebrated in a colorful manner in Asmara. The gathering at Mai Timket, a wide water basin with a statue depicting John the Baptist baptizing Jesus Christ erected in the middle, has always been a landmark event, both for locals and foreigners.

Thousands of the Christian faithful attend early morning Mass featuring preaching, ceremonial dances of the priests and spiritual songs.

The ceremonies and rituals of Timket, which offer a direct window onto the world of the Old Testament, actually commence early in the afternoon on Timket Eve. The tabot (a replica of the Ark of the Covenant and the tablets of the Ten Commandments Moses received on Mount Sinai) is carriedby priests from each church to the body of water, accompanied by the faithful and members of the clergy chanting, dancing, beating drums and waving prayer sticks. As evening falls, the priests and the gathered crowd participate in an overnight vigil and Mass around the Arks.

Following Mass, the Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, usually in the presence of the Governor of the Central Region and invited dignitaries, dips a golden processional cross in the water to Timket: When Cold Drowns Away In Water bless it and then sprinkles some on the faithful. This is to serve as
a reminder of baptism – the remission of sins and that through the baptismal waters a person accepts the obligations of Christian commitment.

Tourists and other foreigners most of the time erroneously attribute the festival as an annual rebaptism while it’s only a commemoration.

After the ceremony is concluded, the celebration reaches its climax as everyone charges forward to the water basin (many actually jump into the water) to fill their containers with the blessed water, to later take it home for private devotions.

Although it has come declining over the past years, young children had this irritating, but funny for the beholder, habit of emptying their cans or containers over unsuspecting people in the streets outside, leaving them drenched in the chilly morning.

It gets even worse. Some fifteen or so years ago, my sister wanted to fill her container herself and not sooner than she approached the basin that she found herself being carried and thrown into the water. I still remember how we laughed when we saw coming all dripping wet and shivering. That’s just typical of Timket Day.

One of the events that add color to the festival actually takes place after the ceremony at Mai Timket. The tabot of each church in Asmara is paraded in a long procession through the streets with the priests dressed in their elaborate robes followed by huge crowds.

When moving the tabot, which is rarely seen by the laity and is accorded extreme relevance, it is reverently wrapped in rich cloth and carried on the head of the priest with colourful ceremonial umbrellas to shade it. Children from the city’s different Sunday schools sing various hymns while accompanying the tabots to their respective churches.

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Timket: When Cold Drowns Away In Water Reviewed by Admin on 4:18 PM Rating: 5


  1. Timket Epiphany...

  2. First of all Melkam ye timiket beal for all christian
    Timket in Ethiopia looks like these picture

  3. ሩሑስ ዓውዲዓሜት ይግቤሬልና፥ አንታ ፌጣሪ ኔዚኦም ንህዝቢ ኤርትራ ዜጥፍኡን ዝሬግጹን ዜሌዉ ጌቤኔኛታት ኢንዶ ማዓልቶም ኤሕጽሬልና ህዝብና ምእንቲ ክርህዎ፥

  4. Eritreans celebrate Epiphany by Amir Aloni (2015)
    ##Eritreans celebrate Epiphany in Qasar el Yahud


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