Edinburgh Napier University

Category: History

The Ethiopia Timkat Festival

The Timkat Festival

Christmas is a distant memory for most of us, but for Ethiopians, Christmas is a whole season that’s just coming to an end now. Ethiopia was one of the first countries in the world to adopt Christianity, and as such it adheres to the ancient traditions that sit at the heart of its Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Timkat, celebrated every year on the 19th of January, is one of those traditions, possibly the most important in the Church’s calendar.

The Amharic word timkat means “baptism”, and the festival marks the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan.

Preparations

Timkat is a huge deal and a seriously religious festival. Preparations for this spectacular event, possibly one of the biggest and most colourful on the African continent, begin on the 18th, when “tabots” – models of the  Ark of the Covenant – are wrapped in fine cloths and carried on the heads of priests down to the river or other place of worship. Local people don white shawls – Ethiopians wear white when they go to church – and follow the procession.

The Festival

Mass starts in the early hours of the 19th and continues for hours. When Mass is over, the water is blessed and the congregants take to the rivers, submerging themselves in a re-enactment of Christ’s baptism. Of course, it’s a happy occasion and that means the celebrations go on all day and are accompanied by feasting and music.  As well as eating their favourite Timkat food, Ethiopians celebrate important occasions with elaborate coffee ceremonies.

On the 20th, the tabots are carried back to the churches in another procession that marks the end of the festival.

One of the best places to observe Timkat is the town of Gondar, home to the 17th century castle built by King Fasilides. In the grounds of the castle is a huge open-air bath. The bath is usually empty, but during Timkat it’s filled with water and the locals dive in. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to visit Ethiopia over the festive season. I missed Timkat by a couple of weeks. When I visited King Fasilides castle it was empty. Next time I go, I’m definitely going for Timkat, and I’m taking my swimming costume.

Want to learn more about other traditions from around the world? Read our article here.

By Lesley McRobb

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today is Martin Luther King day, an American holiday that is always celebrated on the third Monday in January. It’s almost 54 years since Dr King, a Baptist minister and lifelong campaigner, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, but the work to which he sacrificed his life continues.

MLK is most famous, for his “I had a dream…” speech, but the reality of civil rights activism is that it’s less about rallies and speeches and more a daily struggle for the most mundane of rights – a struggle that is played out in factories, playgrounds, homes and schools, well away from the cameras and microphones.

 

 

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King

 

King was in Memphis in April 1968 to support African American sanitation workers who were deprived of the most basic of rights that their white counterparts enjoyed – the right to shelter from the rain, the right to shower after their shift, the lack of overtime payments. The final straw came when 2 black workers were crushed to death by a malfunctioning garbage truck and their families were barely compensated. The workers went on strike, and MLK went to support them.

In recognition of King’s contribution to the struggle for equality, Illinois was the first US state to acknowledge the holiday, and King was the first African American to have a national holiday in his honour.

 

March

March

 

The international struggle for equality continues. As King himself said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

 

Read Dr King’s most famous speech in full. You’ll find it in LibrarySearch:

The Penguin book of twentieth-century speeches

Becoming King Martin Luther King, Jr. and the making of a national leader

 

By Lesley McRobb

 

Remembrance Day and The Poppy

World War One, Remembrance Day and The Poppy

The battles of the First World War (WWI) devastated the countryside of Western Europe. One of the plants that survived the churned-up battlefields was the poppy. As the soldiers saw scarlet poppies bloom through the terrible destruction, they were encouraged to see that life could recover. One soldier, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired to write the poem, In Flanders Fields, in the spring of 1915. 

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky 

The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 

 In Flanders fields

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Subsequently, Since WW1 the poppy has become the universal emblem of remembrance, symbolising the sacrifices that soldiers in past wars made for us. 

The Selling of Poppies

In the United Kingdom, artificial poppies are sold by the Royal British Legion in the run-up to 11th November (Poppy Day). Importantly this is when the Armistice (an agreement to end the fighting) began at 11am on 11th November 1918. Furthermore, sales from the poppies go to providing financial, social and emotional support to British Armed Forces serving soldiers, former soldiers and their dependents. This year is the centenary of the UK Poppy Appeal. 

The original Poppy Days were created by Madame Guerin to raise funds for the French widows and orphans of the War. In 1921 she took samples of her artificial poppies to the Royal British Legion and proposed an Inter-Allied Poppy Day during which all WW1 allied countries use artificial poppies as an emblem of remembrance.

The poppies would be made by French widows and orphans and raise funds for the families of the fallen as well as survivors of the conflict. Although the idea was initially not well received by the British public, the WW1 British Army commander Earl Haig was keen, and after that, when the Royal British Legion held its first Poppy Day on 11th November 1921, it was a great success. Those first poppies were made in France, but from 1922 British veterans made the poppies at the Richmond factory which now employs 50 ex-servicemen all year round. In 1926 Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh was established to produce poppies for Scotland. Over 5 million Scottish poppies are made by hand each year. 

Continue reading

Bonfire Night and The Gunpowder Plot

Fireworks bonfire night Edinburgh Castle

According to market research Company Mintel, in 2018 UK consumers spent £316m celebrating the event variously called, `Bonfire Night’, ‘Fireworks Night’ or `Guy Fawkes Night’. The majority of that money literally went up in smoke, having been spent on fireworks and bonfires. Fireworks displays were recorded as the most popular way of marking the night, with up to 38% of the population attending some form of event. 

The Gunpowder Plot

This peculiarly British annual entertainment can be traced directly to the aftermath of a 17th Century religious and political event. The Gunpowder Plot was a failed conspiracy by a group of English Catholics. Led by Robert Catesby, they planned to blow up the Protestant King James, and his government, at the State Opening of Parliament on November 6th 1605. (Catesby had been involved in a previously failed rebellion against Queen Elizabeth from which he extricated himself only at the cost in today’s money of £6 million.) 

This was to be the prelude to a revolt that would replace James with a Catholic head of state. Ending the persecution suffered by many Catholics following the split with the Roman Church over half a century previously. 

Guy Fawkes

Though we now principally associate the name of Guy Fawkes with the plot, he was a minor player in the conspiracy. He was, however, literally left holding ‘the baby’ or in this case 36 barrels of gunpowder when, following an anonymous tip-off, the authorities searched the cellars of the Palace of Westminster and discovered the explosive cache. 

This ‘search’ continues today before every State Opening of Parliament, albeit ceremonially, with the searchers, the Yeoman of the Guard, being rewarded with a glass of port.  

Continue reading

© 2022 The Library Blog

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: