Timket – Baptism
Timket means “baptism”. Timket is the most colorful festival in Ethiopia, in the course of which priests carry to the nearest water area the replicas of the Arc of the Covenant. The purpose of the ceremony is celebrating the memory of the christening of Christ in the River Jordan, and it takes place on 19th January, two weeks after Ethiopian Christmas. The replicas of the Arc, called Tabot, are carried out in the afternoon, on the day preceding the Festival of the Three Magi (Epiphany). Prayers and meditations are in progress throughout the entire night. On the second day, the blessing of water takes place, and afterwards the entire gathered are also blessed.
Dates Celebrated: Celebrated throughout the country on January 19 – 20 on Leap Year
Ashenda – Colorful
Ashenda is a festival celebrated in August in the Ethiopian regions of Tigray and Northern Amhara. In this ceremony there will be great traditional songs sung by girls coming from all over the villages and they will be wearing Ashenda. Ashenda is a Tigrinya word meaning “tall green grass“, estimated at around 80–90 cm minimum height on top of their traditional dresses which makes the celebration even more colorful. This cultural festivity was originated from two historical legends that occurred in different periods. These were;
- The death of Jehphttah’s son by her father as an offer to the god of Israel in the Old Testament and
- The death and reincarnation of Virgin Mary (mother of Jesus) in the New Testament
The festival of Ashenda has cultural, religious and economic importance.
- In Amhara region it is called Shaday and celebrated on August 22
- In Mekelle city, it is called Ashenda and celebrated on August 22-24
- In Adigrat town, it is called Mariya. It is celebrated August 22-24
- In Aksum town, it is called Ayniwari. It is celebrated August 29–31
Enkutatash – Ethiopian New Year
The Ethiopian New Year falls in September at the end of the big rains. The sun comes out to shine all day long creating an atmosphere of dazzling clarity and fresh clean air. The highlands turn to gold as the Meskel daisies burst out in all their splendor. Ethiopian children clad in brand new clothes dance through the villages giving bouquets of flowers and painted pictures to each household.
Meskel – Finding the True Cross
The Festival of Meskel is commenced on 26th September and lasts for two days. It commemorates the finding of the relics of the Cross of Lord by Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. The Amharic word “Meskel” means “cross”. This festival is as colorful as Timket, but instead of water, fire is the object of celebrations. In the center of the ceremonial venues, there are bonfires topped with crosses decorated with flower. Priests, in ceremonial robes, bless the Bonaire before it is lit. The festival coincides with the period of blooming of the golden-yellow flowers called Meskel Daisies, which in the Amharic language are called “Adey Ababa”. These flowers are the symbol of the arrival of a new year after the end of the rain period.
Meskel is celebrated on September 27th.
Irreecha – Ritual Celebration of Oromo
This unique event takes place on the shore of Lake Bishoftu (Debre Zeit) and the shore of Lake Hora, Jimma city by the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. This celebration is done by the locals as a thanksgiving to their God (Qaqa) for everything he has given to them all year long. Attending this ceremony, elders from the Geda which is sort of an Administrative system that has been used by the Oromo ethnic group since old times. People who are on the top of this system are thought to be knowledgeable and respected. They also give a lot of color to this celebration by performing the also the main part of the event, Blessing the Country, its people, the nature, the land, the cattle and more to be ever fruitful and productive all year long.
This is done by over a 1000 people standing on the shores and the elders stirring long grasses in the Lake and sprinkling the blessed water on to the participants for them to be blessed as well. It is celebrated on September 28th.
Genna – Christmas
Christmas is referred to as ‘Lidet’ in the local language, Amharic, and it is one of the important festivals for the Christians of Ethiopia. It is celebrated on 7th January, and is completely different than Christmas as celebrated, for instance, in Europe. It is celebrated by a procession, marching throughout the entire night, from one church to another. After returning from a church, feasting is commenced. A traditional dish is “Doro Wat” (pronunciation: doro wot) – a spicy sauce with chicken consumed with injera. During this time, traditionally, young people also play the game called Genna which is similar to hockey. It is celebrated on January 07th.