ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Clad in all-white traditional Ethiopian dress, thousands of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians Wednesday beat drums and sang religious songs to celebrate Epiphany in the capital Addis Ababa.
Inscribed by UNESCO in 2019 as one of the world’s highly valued intangible cultural heritage, Ethiopia’s commemoration of the baptism of Jesus is a two-day religious and cultural extravaganza that began on Monday afternoon and was marked throughout the country.
Orthodox Christians, who constitute 43% of Ethiopia's estimated 120 million population, accompanied the priests who carried the Holy Tablets (replicas of the Ark of Covenant) of the city’s 80 churches to designated public spaces in various parts of the capital.
However, Wednesday’s main celebration took place at the city’s open-air Jan Meda sports venue under heavy police presence.
A notable absentee at this year’s celebration is the Patriarch of Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) Abune Mathias who fell ill.
The priests sprinkled the holy water on the participants.
Bishop Melke Tsadik said that Epiphany is an embodiment of a belief and a culture of unity and togetherness.
“We shall maintain the originality of the celebration and peace and unity of Ethiopia,” he added.
Ayele Neguse, who participated in the celebration, told Anadolu Agency that this year’s colorful commemoration of the baptism of Jesus will help elevate our spirits depressed by the war.
“We pray for peace and unity of the church,” he noted.
The Epiphany day marks the beginning of Orthodox Christmas celebrations, later than Dec. 25 – the date for many other Christians – due to different traditional calendars. It is one of the Orthodox Church’s most important holidays, commemorating Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan.