Ethiopia: Timket - a World Heritage for Peace and Fraternity

Have you ever visited Ethiopia to watch the colorful celebrations of Timket at Jan Meda? If not, I assure you that you have missed a major religious and cultural event that takes place in this country. Try it this time and do not forget to get your camera to record the celebrations for friends here or abroad who have not got the chance to attend Timket.

Timket is also known as Epiphany among the western Christian believers is one of Ethiopia's four intangible world heritages marked every year on January 19th and 20th in leap year in memory of the baptism of Jesus Christ at the Jordan River by John the Baptist.

Timket is one of the fundamental requirements to be fulfilled in the dogma of the teachings of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and is also practiced in other Christian denominations across the world.

Apart from its religious significance, Timket is also celebrated as a post-harvest season in which millions accompany the tabots or the replicas of the tabernacle from churches to riversides or specially designated sites for baptism. At dawn the water is blessed and sprinkled on the participants, some of whom jump in the water to renew their baptismal vows.

Here lies the uniqueness of the intangible heritage as one of the criterion to qualify for inscription.

Timket has been celebrated in Ethiopia ever since the introduction of Christianity into the country thousands of years back without interruption. This has also qualified it for being inscribed as an intangible world heritage.

History notes that former emperors of Ethiopia including Emperor Fasilidus built huge ponds around churches in Lalibela in memory of the baptism that Jesus has taken and this shows to what extent Timket has become part of the religious and cultural obligation of the royals of those days.

In terms of the social composition of the members of the society who most prominently celebrate Timket, the youth conspicuously stand out. In rural Ethiopia in particular, Timket is a season in which young person's relate to each other for engagement and possible arranged marriage in a ceremony of throwing ripe lemon fruit as a sign of interest for selecting their future partners. The social and cultural context of Timket is deeper than what the ordinary person on the street understands.

Among other things, Timket an annual showcase for the vivid and multi-ethnic cultural dances and religious songs that are unique to Ethiopia. Timket is celebrated by the entire stratum of Christian believers across the country. It sets an occasion in which traditional cultural costumes in the country are displayed in the most colorful attainment by the public. The cultural contextually of Timket as it is celebrated among nations, nationalities and peoples need to be duly appreciated.

Over the last several decades Timket attracted thousands of tourists from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. This showed that the celebration of Timket has attained global significance as an intangible heritage of mankind.

Timket qualified for registration at UNESCO also because it has continued to demonstrate for ages the unity and respect among the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia. The unique mix of culture and religion and the values it added to global collection of intangible heritages also links not only Ethiopia but the rest of Africa as well to the international community of peoples. While many of the European countries were living in the Dark Ages some of which practiced paganism and traditional religion, Ethiopia was celebrating epiphany with unique greater paraphilia unknown anywhere in the world.

The point is what benefit Ethiopia can get from the inscription of Timket as world intangible heritage. To begin with, the entire context of the celebration prompts sociologists, anthropologists and historians to make research on every bit of the entire process of the celebration. The celebration is still subject to wider range of research.

Timket is not copied or adopted modified from any country or culture. It is a unique display of the ingenuity of our forefathers and the knowledge they have possessed about the real essence of Christianity as it is practiced in Ethiopia.

As a major component of Tourism Ethiopia, Timket generates considerable revenue to the tourist industry of the country which is only at a take off stage even after so many years of the origin of the industry into the country.

However, a new approach in handling tourists needs to be meticulously devised in greater detail so that they can easily decide to stay in Ethiopia for more days.

Tourism Ethiopia needs to network with similar institutions in the neighboring to

countries learn from their experience in handling tourists and also provide them with possibilities of visiting Ethiopia in transit.

For instance, in marking the inscription of Timket at UNESCO during the upcoming Timket celebrations, special programs can be designed for tourists from African countries so that they would learn to appreciate the celebration in the context of African traditional cultures.

Timket is a religious celebration in which Ethiopian Orthodox Church invites leaders

of other Coptic Orthodox to strengthen the solidarity of the EOC with similar to strengthen Ethiopia's diplomatic relation through international relations with other churches around the world.

The other aspect of Timket that qualified it for inscription is the fact that it is a multi-ethic celebration in which Ethiopian Christians demonstrate peaceful coexistence among themselves. In this sense Ethiopians can fall back on their religions to build peace on solid foundations to ensure the future peaceful development of the country.

As a religious celebration conducted outdoor right after the harvest season, Timket provides a seasonal gap of rest for farmers in Ethiopia prior to the onset of the little rains showing the country between February and May.

From its social and cultural perspectives Timket provides an opportunity for young girls and boys to start dating in a traditional style. This is mostly done when young boys throw lemons to the girls of their choice in lieu of a proposal for courtship.

This year Ethiopians celebrate Timket with a mixed felling of happiness and pain after experiencing the tragic event triggered in Tigray Region by the so called TPLF Special Forces inhuman and unexpected attack on the Northern Command in Mekele as well as the unprecedented destruction of major infrastructural and social service in the region. The massacres in Mai Kadra, Humera, Metekel, Gulisso and at several other locations in Benishangul-Gumuz are still fresh in the minds of all Ethiopians.

In Ethiopia, Timket is a season of peace and I urge all faithful Christians across the country to work for peace and reconciliation in the country.

Even then, Ethiopians will hopefully show compassion to citizens who are affected by the above-mentioned incidents and will be ready to face a better reality in the future.

The Ethiopian Herald 19 January 2021

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