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Fikadu Hailu SSCI-101 Dr. Peter A.

Karim-Sesay Sum 2010

Ethiopian Epiphany Ethiopia is a landlocked country located in eastern Africa. It shares boundaries to the north with Eritrea, to the west with Sudan, to the south with Kenya and Somalia, and to the east with Somalia and Djibouti. Like most African nations, there are a number of different tribes living in Ethiopia. Rich in natural resources, this is the nation that contributes 85 percent of the Blue Nile. It is estimated that there are about 80 languages in the country, but only three of these languages are spoken widely. Amharic, which is considered the official language, is spoken in almost every part of the nation. Oromo, the language of the Oromo people, who are the largest ethnic group in the nation, is believed to be the second mostly used language. Tigrigna is the third major language which is primarily used in the northern part of the nation. Ethiopians exercise different religions. Some religious practices are specific to a particular region, to a particular tribe. The majority of Ethiopians are either Christians or Muslims. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, or Ge'ez Tewahdo, is a derivation of the Coptic Church of Egypt, which broke from the Roman Catholic Church over the issue of monophysitism. Monophysitism holds that Christ had one divine nature.

Christianity was introduced into Ethiopia during the Aksum Kingdom in the fourth century A.D. In the seventh century, Muslim Arabs slowed the spread of Christianity in Ethiopia by cutting off the region from its Christian neighbors. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has historically been an integral part of Ethiopian political and social life and has been practiced mainly by the Amharan and Tigrayan people of the north. Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity integrates many of the conservative Christian beliefs, particularly those advanced in the Old Testament, including beliefs in good and evil spirits. The ark, the remains of which are believed by some archaeologists to be somewhere in Ethiopia, is a popular icon in Ethiopian churches. Every church has Tabot, a replica of the ark of covenant, in its altar. Both Saturdays and Sundays are considered Sabbath and fasting is common during holy days. Orthodox Christians celebrate a number of religious holidays throughout a year. But no holiday is celebrated like Timket, Ethiopian Epiphany. The entire celebration takes two days. On the first day, every Tabot is wrapped in rich cloth and born in procession on the head of the priest. The ceremony takes place nearby a body of water. Prayers are performed throughout the night of the first day. Then the water is blessed and is sprinkled on the participants early morning, on the second day. By noon the Tabot is escorted back to its church. The clergy, bearing robes and umbrellas of many hues, perform rollicking dances and songs. The process is so colorful that it is one of the biggest tourists attraction. Ethiopian immigrants in America do celebrate epiphany here. But most of the traditional ritual activities are not part of the celebration. Like many immigrants who are forced to adapt to

American culture, Ethiopians have found it hard to compromise between the culture from which they came and the culture in which they must now live. One of the most common casualties resulting from the Americanization of Ethiopian refugees is the loss of religion in second and third generation refugees. Second generation Ethiopians are forced to construct their own identity from the cultural heritage they inherit from their parents and the American culture they are exposed to.

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