20 Jan 2019

Ethiopians celebrate one of their oldest festivals in Wellington

10:17 pm on 20 January 2019

Wellington's Ethiopian Community have been celebrating one of their country's most prestigious events - Timkat.

Preparing for a baptism during Timkat celebrations.

Preparing for a baptism during Timkat celebrations. Photo: Supplied

Wellington's Wakefield Park has been filled with singing and prayers this weekend.

Timkat, which they celebrate to mark Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River, is held outside and involves 48 hours of praying, singing and fasting, before being broken with a feast.

Leader of the Wellington Ethiopian Community Nigussie Fenje said it was the first time they had been able to celebrate the occasion and culture with their own priest, who arrived at the end of last year.

"It is one of the best and oldest festival ceremonies we have, it's also an opportunity for all the community to come together and forgive each other," he said.

Mr Fenje said it was great to have the festival for the children born in New Zealand, who could sit down with their priest and learn respect for people.

"They are proud of their culture, they are overwhelmed and excited and say we've got a unique celebration," he said.

He said members of both the Auckland and Christchurch Ethiopian communities have also travelled to Wellington for the occasion.

A priest, Kinfegebriel Tkkletsadik, who had travelled from Christchurch said the celebration was amazing.

"For the people living in New Zealand we haven't had this sort of celebration before, so the union of the community, the praying of their nation is significant, he said.