Epiphany marks two events in Christendom.
For south Louisiana, Epiphany is Jan. 6 and is when the Magi brought gifts to the Christ child.
However, for some Christians, Epiphany marks the date that Jesus was baptized by his cousin John in the Jordan River.
The Ethiopian Orthodox call this day Timkat, which means baptism in Amharic. It is observed Jan. 19 or Jan. 20 in leap year.
The celebration stretches over three days and includes gift-giving and new clothes.
On the eve of Timkat, people dress up. The clergy wear jewel-toned ceremonial robes of satin and velvet with sequinned umbrellas.
In contrast, adults wear white. Children’s clothes are bright colors, and they wear crowns.
On the eve, the priests take the tabot, an engraved slab of stone or wood that represents the Ark of the Covenant, from the church and carry it in a procession to a special site.
Because the Ark of the Covenant was the holding place of the Ten Commandments and couldn’t be touched by humans, the tabots are wrapped in luxurious cloth for the trip.
Incense, bells, trumpets and prayers fill the air.
The Divine Liturgy is observed at 2 a.m. As the sun rises, the people gather near water. Priests sprinkle the congregation with water as a symbol of renewed baptism. Some attendees jump into the water.
The parade escorts the tabots back to their churches.
Feasting follows, either as a group or in family homes. It includes mead and beer brewed for the day, special bread and lamb.
Mass follows on the third day.
For photos of the celebrations, visit fest300.com/festivals/timkat.