Ethiopian festivals are a blend of religious and cultural events that are mainly being celebrated in large groups. Being un-colonized, Ethiopians are endowed with the gut and tranquility to celebrate their festivals –be it religious or others – without fragmentation of the flavor and valor of the indigenous identities and cultures.
The country has accepted both Christianity and Islam peacefully in times as far as the religions were emerged. Christianity is believed to enter to Ethiopia in the 4th Century during the Aksumite kingdom. Similarly, Islam is also believed to entered and expanded in the county since the 7th century through the first followers of the prophet. When the tribe of Qurayesh persecuted the first Muslims from Mecca, the Prophet told his followers “There is a king in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) ; He is a just king and in that land you won’t be persecuted because of your beliefs, so go there until the persecution stops”. They fled to Ethiopia and the king welcomed them and gave them the refugee they sought. When the troubling time passed and the first Muslims returned to Mecca, it is believed that fifteen companions of the Prophet Muhammad remained and lived in Ethiopia and were buried in the centuries-old Al-Nejashi Mosque, in the Tigray region of Ethiopia; Many Muslim Pilgrims salute the historic Mosque along with the Tombs of the companions of Prophet Mohammed.
If a blend of religious festivals with indigenous culture attracts your interest, this piece takes you into the rituals of a recently celebrated two festivals.
Pic8.Genna – Ethiopian Christmas
While almost all Christians across the world celebrated Christmas a week before the New Year, Ethiopians celebrated “Genna” Ethiopian Christmas on January 7 (On Thaisas 29 – in Ethiopian calendar). Ethiopia has its own calendar, which is similar to Julian calendar so that the country is almost in its mid-2013. In holidays, Ethiopians give prime respect to cultural ceremonies – from preparing distinctive foods such as Doro Wot ( Chicken Curry) , Tibs (Fried Meat), Tire Siga (Raw Meat), Kitfo (minced Meat), … to homemade drinks such as Tej (home-brewed drink made of Honey like mead ) and Tella (homemade traditional beer) as well as “the inevitable” Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony. It is also common for the men to play traditional game called “K’ile” which is similar to Hockey.
Timket – Ethiopian Epiphany
On January 19, 2021, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrated “Timket- an Amharic word means Epiphany to commemorate the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. At the eve, “Tabots” (Holy tablets)- replicas of the Arch of the covenant- ,carried by clergies, from different churches is escorted to and gather in a nearby open space where there is river or a manmade pool with full of water. The congregation spend the night there chanting hymns in the honour of their God. In the morning, a group of clergies holds a religious ritual around the pool, the water is believed to be changed to holy water instantly, and the priests sprinkle the holy water on the large group of laity, who push and shove to near the pool in order to get the sprinkle of the holy water and be blessed. Some even get soaked with the sprinkle or dive into the pool when the ritual is done. At the end of celebration, celebrants escort back the “Tabots”- the replica of the Arch of the Covenant, still chanting, to the respective churches.
Festivities in Ethiopia disclose the country’s affluence in heritages and strong social interactions. Although “Timke” is being celebrated in different parts of the country and even abroad, the depth of the celebration may vary from place to place as celebration in some places are given much attention. While “Genna”-Christmas is celebrated more colorfully at Lalibela, monolithic churches carved out of solid rock in the 13th century, Timket-Ethiopian Epiphany is much colorfully celebrated at the Castle of Gondar (Fasil Ghebhi), a palace compound built in the 17th century. The celebrations of “Genna” and “Timket attract many visitors from the world.
Epiphany celebration is also much colorful and unique at the Island Monasteries at Lake Ziway, which is 165 km away from the capital Addis Abeba. Celebrants use small boat to go to the Monasteries at Ziway and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians believed that the biblical Arch of the Covenant rested in the Monastery for forty years and moved to Aksum Zion , in Northern Ethiopia.
UNESCO registered Lalibella and the Castle of Gondar as a tangible asset in 1970 and 1979 respectively and “Timket”-Ethiopian Epiphany as an intangible asset of humanity in 2019. The country has nine registered tangible assets such as the Stale of Aksum, Tiya, Harar Jugol, Konso Cultural Landscape …) and four intangible assets ( Meskel, Irrecha, Fichee-Chambalaalla).
Timket – Ethiopian Epiphany Celebration in Kampala
The tradition of celebrating Ethiopian festivals is in the vein of Ethiopians wherever they are. This same reason compelled Ethiopian Orthodox believers residing in Uganda to celebrate “Timket” on Sunday January 24, 2021, flexibly as it is a day off for many to come together and celebrate. The ritual is held in Ethiopian Orthodox (Medhanealem-Saint Saviour) Church at Bunga- Soya, Kampala. The congregations are adorned with traditional and religious wearing- almost all wore “Netella” a kind of long white woven scarf and the church was decorated with the color of Ethiopian Flags. Religious rituals such as blessings and sprinkle a holy water to the congregations similar to the home country were held. One may wonder how they enjoy the festivals without the delicious Ethiopian Cuisines; but not to worry some cook the delicious food in their homes while others enjoy in a number of Ethiopian restaurants in the capital Kampala.
Festivities in the country are being celebrated from Ethiopian new year, which fall on September 11 ( Meskerem 1) to the end of the year , which falls early September (Pawgme 5/6 –which is the end the thirteen months in Ethiopian Calendar.)