Huddled beneath a large white tent, hundreds of people sang together in the early morning darkness. For hours, they repeated a single word: Hallelujah.
They were gathered last Sunday to mark Timket, the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of the Epiphany. For the faithful, the holiday commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan and his revelation as the son of God.
Los Angeles’ Timket celebration is the largest in the United States. It takes place over a January weekend each year in a parking lot outside the Forum in Inglewood.
Ethiopian immigrants flock from across the country and Canada to receive blessings from church bishops who wear elaborate beaded cloaks and full gray beards. Organizers say it may be the largest gathering of Ethiopians outside that nation in the Horn of Africa.
The highlight takes place Sunday afternoon, when the bishops dip their crosses into a plastic pool of water and sprinkle it on the bowed heads of believers.
The festival, she [Tsehay Tseghun, one of the participants] said, goes beyond religion. It’s a chance for Ethiopians to reconnect with their friends, family and culture.
Schools and shops are closed during the weeklong festivities, she said. And there are splendid processions, in which bishops carry replicas of the Ark of the Covenant, venerated as the vessel that carried the Ten Commandments, on their heads.