This article provides information about Malta and things to do in Malta during your Easter Holiday.
Easter time is the most important time of year for the Roman Catholic Church and is thus a very exciting and colourful time for the Maltese due to their deeply rooted religious values. Being in Malta during this period allows you to see the Maltese culture come alive as it celebrates the resurrection of Christ. It comes as no surprise that visitors to the island would be busy clicking away at their cameras in order to capture on film these creative and emotional scenes as it is an experience that is unique and worth viewing.
Easter Maltese Traditions
After the close of the colourful carnival celebrations that take place right before Lent, the Easter period begins. The start of Lent takes place on Ash Wednesday where burnt ashes of the palms are rubbed on the forehead of the faithful as a sign of repentance. In Maltese, this period is known as ‘Ras ir-Randan’, where the word ‘ras’ means head – linking it to the rubbing of the ashes. Lent is marked by fasting, generally of meat and sweets either during the entire period or on select days of the week, and repentance. In fact, Ash Wednesday is such an important day for the Maltese calendar that it is a school holiday for all children.
It is common that in all villages there would be a ‘Wirja tal- Mejda tal- Apostli’ which is an exhibition of ‘Apostles Tables’ ranging from miniature to life-size models of the apostles having the Last Supper with Christ. The models are often very artistic and life-like and vary according to village. Furthermore, people would also display figurines of Christ and the apostles on their window sills. Many signs are put up for both Maltese and tourists in order to find their way to the exhibitions.
During this period the decorations within the 100s of churches scattered across the Maltese islands take a different approach in both colour and design and are filled with ornaments, flowers and candles. On Maundy Thursday the churches remain open in the evening and families come together to attend the traditional ‘Seven Visits’. Here, families would travel to seven different churches of their choice to pray and kneel before Christ. Another tradition related to Maundy Thursday is that the church bells, which are often heard chiming in the villages, are not rung again until Easter Sunday.
Traditionally, on Good Friday there would be a homily which lasts 3 hours! This, however is no longer commonplace. On Good Friday, the decorations change once more and the churches remain rather bare, until Saturday evening, when the flickering of candles begins the resurrection celebrations that lead up to the Easter Vigil at around 11am on Easter Sunday. There are several processions and pageants that take place all day, all over the island!
On Easter Sunday, unlike the bare and dark mood of Good Friday, there is an explosion of light and candles. The processions are led by a statue of Jesus Christ holding a flag and sometimes include entire biblical stories. It is also common for people in penitence to join the procession by carrying heavy weights or walking barefoot. This procession is then followed by a large Maltese family lunch, traditionally made up of lamb, baked potatoes and local vegetables.
Traditional Maltese Sweets
During their Malta vacations, tourists can also experience an array of traditional food as shops and vendors are filled with local delicacies. The ‘figolla’ is probably the most popular and it was traditionally given to every child after Sunday lunch. However, it is now distributed during the entire Easter period to every child and adult! The figolla is a baked sweet pastry filled with almond paste, covered in icing. These are made into Christian symbols such as birds and fish but other shapes such as cars, bunnies and hearts have also become popular. Easter eggs and rabbits are also given to children during this time of year. During lent ‘Kwarezimal’ is also popular and is made up of almonds, milk, flour, black honey and spices. There are two types of bread that are traditionally attributed to this period, the ‘Sfineg’ and the ‘Qaghaq’. The former is a type of flat, circular loaf made from flour and meal flour mixed together, then coated in honey and fried in oil. The latter is a circular loaf with a hole in the middle that has almonds scattered on top. Hot cross buns and caramel sweets are also very popular during this period.