Easter in Malta
This year, Easter falls over the first weekend in April, and with Malta being one of the most devoutly Catholic countries worldwide, Easter and Holy Week is of particular significance. Prior to Lent, Malta celebrates Carnival in February with extravagant processions in the streets, and raucous celebrations lasting several days, particularly in Nadur, Gozo. On Ash Wednesday, the partying grinds to a halt with many observing Lenten traditions.
Holy Week commences on the Friday immediately before Good Friday, with the day dedicated to id-Duluri – Our Lady of Sorrows.
People attend Mass and processions are held in Valletta and in other towns and villages, carrying the statue of Our Lady through the streets. On Palm Sunday, fronds of palm leaves are shaped into crosses and are blessed in church. On Thursday, the day before Good Friday, in Malta it’s tradition to visit seven churches; all churches are beautifully decorated for the occasion and tourists and Maltese alike flock to see the display.
Good Friday is a day of sorrow, with churches taking down the decorations and displaying the colour red to signify the blood of Christ. There is no Mass on Good Friday; instead people go to church to kiss the cross at 3pm – the time that Christ allegedly died. Later, a procession occurs in some villages – this is a lengthy affair with hundreds taking part. This lasts for over two hours and statues are carried depicting the Stations of the Cross, with actors playing the parts of Roman soldiers, disciples and other characters. As a penance, some people wear white cloaks and hoods and drag large wooden crosses along the route; others have heavy chains fastened to their ankles and walk barefoot behind the rest of the procession.
The next day, churches are open all day, and are decorated with fresh flowers and adornments, and later on, a Mass is heard whereby each member of the congregation is given a candle and lighting this signifies Christ’s resurrection. The priest lights his candle first and then the light is passed from candle to candle until the whole church lights up. During this Mass, the church bells start ringing after being silent since Thursday. After the service, Figolli are given out – these are pastries made with pure almond paste and formed into shapes of lambs, fish or rabbits. Easter comes to a close on Easter Sunday after mass, which is a family day when families meet for lunch and give out gifts.