Malta and it's Catholic ties are unarguably the reason for plenty a beautiful churches and places of worship scattered all around the Maltese archipelago. Further affirming our roots, are the religious celebrations which reach a peak during the summer season when every week is brimming with festas of respective patron saints of different localities on the islands.
In winter, you can still experience the spirit of religious celebrations in Malta and Gozo through Good Friday and Easter activities which go on all throughout the Holy Week (this year it will be between the 9th and 16th of April) . Now is the time to book your flights with Air Malta to experience it all yourselves.
Good Friday processions in Malta & Gozo go back to the time of the Knights of St. John (1530 - 1798) with Rabat boasting the first ever procession. Some of the oldest are perhaps the ones taking place in Valletta, our capital city and the Three Cities (Bormla, Birgu, Isla) as well as those of Zebbug, Qormi, and Zejtun, with each of them having it's own characteristics. For example, the Birgu (Vittoriosa) procession, features statues clothed in real velvet robes, while the ones in Zebbug and Qormi are the mostly know for their opulent horse-drawn chariots. In all, 13 villages in Malta and 5 in Gozo organize Good Friday processions.
|Image from Father Julian's Blog|
Each village has it's own set of statues representing different aspects of the passion of Christ; but apart from statues which are carried on the shoulders of volunteers, the processions are also characterized by the people who dress up to represent the most important people in the Bible leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ from the dead - Roman soldiers, Biblical characters, Jewish priests, Jews, etc. Locals and tourists alike line the village streets from late in the afternoon to see the processions accompanied by bands playing funeral marches so do hurry up to reach the best places.
|Image from Excelsior Hotel Blog|
Of course, another popular tradition is that of the sebgha vizti (Seven Churches' Visitation) which usually happens on Maundy Thursday and people, mostly locals, visit 7 different churches to pray and at the same time admire the statues at the said churches and visit a few Good Friday exhibitions along the way.
|Cospicua Last Supper Exhibition|
One thing you can't miss is the Last Supper Exhibition at the Domus Piju IX in Cospicua (Bormla). Many villages now do the same thing but nothing really beats the original. This exhibition boasts the best designs depicting episodes from the passion of the Christ all entirely executed with salt, rice or pasta around a Last Supper themed set-up. Whilst here, you can also see a model representation of the Golgotha.
Easter is the biggest feast in Catholicism so of course, you can expect the celebrations to be somewhat of a great deal. Similarly to Good Friday, the statue of the Risen Christ is carried around the village streets in a more festive mood on Easter morning where children get their Easter eggs 'blessed' by the parish priest and the men carrying the statue of the Risen Christ run with the statue several times along different streets to symbolize the triumph of Christ over death and evil. Again, the best demonstration of this is probably the one in Cospicua.
|Cospicua Easter Procession - Image from Times of Malta|
Lastly, I cannot conclude this post without mentioning some of the most popular foods (which the Maltese thoroughly enjoy) associated with these times. You can find Kwarezimal (almond and honey biscuits), Karamelli tal-Harrub (sticky sweets made out of carob syrup), Figolli (iced almond Easter cakes), Qaghaqa ta' l-Appostli (bread rings with almonds) at every corner during times so obviously, you have no excuse - you just have to try them!
|Top L to R: Figolla, Kwarezimal|
Bottom: Qaghaq ta' l-Appostli