Spending time in my hub town, Debre Berhan, on the eve of Timket (Epiphany-the celebration of the baptism of Christ by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians), I anticipated a wonderful celebration. Reality far exceeded my expectations. As I returned to my hotel from the internet bet yesterday evening, I noticed the crowd was beginning to gather. There are several churches near the hotel. I just happened to be in the right spot. I joined the group gathering on the steps near the church. As more and more people came, I adjusted my position to have a better view of what I could only guess would be something spectacular.
A man who spoke wonderful English told me I needed to get up front to get a better view for photos. I said I was fine…but he insisted that I get in the middle of it all, and that I did! He asked me to follow him to the roundabout in the middle of where all the parades would converge. He explained where and how they would all meet here in this middle circle. He placed me right next to a nice policeman and left to join his family. I literally had a front row seat to all that followed.
The masses moved in toward me, the chanting and singing crescendoed. I thought I was ready for this size crowd, after all, I have been to the World Series. But this was something else; the joy, the excitement, and the sheer volume of Christians gathered in one spot.
Throughout the day, I had received a normal amount of harassment on the street (farinji, money money money). However, during this ceremony, I only saw smiling children excited to see me, families greeting me in any English they knew, and individuals excited to share this experience with the foreigner. It was some of the most pleasant social interactions I have had in Ethiopia.
I hope the photos do the ceremony a little bit of justice. I have several videos as well but may not be able to upload them.
Until next time,