Easter is a time for celebration, and in Malta you will find Easter different to anything you have previously experienced as well as enjoying being part of a gigantic celebration filled with re-enactments, food, fun and swimming!
Holy Week commences on the Friday preceding Good Friday, when the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows is carried in a procession through the streets of various villages, the devout follow the statue through the streets reciting the rosary. On Good Friday, various towns and villages commemorate the Passion of the Christ with a solemn procession of statues which represent episodes in the Passion of the Christ and are carried by bearers. Participants dressed as biblical characters take part in the procession in a dignified manner. Many processions include men bearing a cross or dragging chains tied to their bare feet as an act of faith or penance. The colour red often features in these historical garments or in the statues themselves, red being the colour of life and also symbolic of Christ’s blood.
Easter Sunday is the most important day and announces the Resurrection of Christ. It is celebrated by a procession with the statue of the Risen Christ moving along the streets accompanied by bands playing noisy festive tunes. At the end, the way is cleared and the statue-bearers take a run to carry the Risen Christ triumphantly back into the church.
Easter is also traditionally celebrated with a special family lunch. Local tradition is represented by exchanging chocolate-coated easter eggs and a ‘figolla’, almond-filled pastry in the shape of a rabbit, lamb, fish or heart, covered in icing sugar. The figolla gets its name from ‘figura’, the various figures which shape this delicious sweet. Making and then eating figolli is a very strong Maltese tradition, which today has become more than a simple culinary event.
Other popular Easter sweets in Malta include sweet zeppoli ta’ San Guzzep, golf ball-sized pieces of dough stuffed with sweet ricotta then fried until light golden brown, drained and dredged with confectioner’s sugar. Usually eaten warm these delicious treats are consumed on St. Joseph’s feast, 19th March. Another to try is quarezimal, also known as almond biscuits, but shaped into a bigger log. This one is traditionally served during Lent. The strangely-named Qagħaq ta’ l-Apposti, translated as ‘Apostles Ring’, is a seasonal loaf shaped in a ring with roasted almonds.
Easter is also Spring, and for those staying on beyond Easter Sunday for a few days, after Easter Malta celebrates the Festa ta’ San Girgor, where Maltese, mostly from the south of the Island, go in procession to the Chapel of St Gregory in Zejtun and then proceed to frolic in Marsaxlokk. The feast of San Girgor unofficially marks the opening of the swimming season, and many locals and visitors venture further south to Marsaxlokk to catch a glimpse of those enjoying the traditional San Girgor dip in the sea, or even having a dip themselves.
Complimentary events organised exclusively for guests staying at The Phoenicia during the Easter period include tours and talks given by Mr. Vincent Zammit:
15th April – Holy week traditions in Malta | Talk
16th April – Holy week traditions in The Three Cities | Tour
25th April – Valletta Baroque City | Talk
8th May – Historic Gardens of Malta | Talk
10th May – Argotti Gardens | Tour
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