Earlier this year I was very fortunate to become a part of a new group MAYC (Maltese-Australians’ Youth Committee NSW) where 8 of us have taken the initiative to do something about the declining Maltese community here in Australia.
With this, we are working towards attending a convention held in Malta every 5 years called the Convention for Maltese Living Abroad which calls for all Maltese from around the world to meet in Malta. We are currently working on writing up a paper to present at this convention and address several issues that we as young Maltese-Australians’ face in today’s day and age. One of these issues is our Maltese Traditions…
I was born here in Australia, but raised to appreciate and be proud of my roots. My parents always spoke to me in Maltese and for that I am very grateful. Mum has always cooked traditional Maltese dishes and as a child my family always embraced any local events that were organised by the Maltese community. As much as I grew up Australianised, I am forever grateful to have grown up with the Maltese community around me. I think it is important to keep the values, experiences, stories, traditions brought by the Maltese from Malta to Australia. I get upset to think that my children or their children won’t get to experience what I experienced as a child here in this multicultural country we live in, and even more upset to think that Maltese traditions will eventually be forgotten completely.
Since joining MAYC, one of the main things that strike up a conversational topic after I have explained in essence what MAYC is about, is Maltese traditions and whether the younger Maltese generations (speaking of those living in Australia) are interested in carrying those traditions on. For me personally, I can say I am active within the Maltese community here in Sydney and attend events such as a festa, but then also sad to say that I am never really surrounded by other Maltese that are from my generation or younger. Don’t get me wrong, I see younger Aussie Maltesers about, but usually the older generations outweigh the younger.
So what do I say to those that challenge me by saying that ‘we’ aren’t interested?
I think something like a festa, being one of our main traditions, is something that can be carried on for future generations. At least I’d like to think so. I can appreciate times are changing, and sad to say that with those times changing, and with younger generations that aren’t as religious as the older generations, it may not be as appealing as say a social event organised like ‘Made in Malta’ (organised once a year in Melbourne and Sydney) or ‘Maltese Cook-Off’ held in Melbourne where groups get together to compete in cooking the best Maltese dish. With this however, it isn’t to say we can’t carry on such a tradition.
This year I attended the Good Friday service at Horsley Park in Sydney, which to be honest, I hadn’t been to for quite a few years. After the Good Friday mass, the traditional procession of the Passion of Christ took place, where groups of men carry a statue of each station of the cross around the block of the church. To get an idea of how big these statues are, they usually need about 8 men to carry them.
I was quite surprised to see that amongst those men that were carrying the statues, were younger Maltese. A few that I personally know and to be honest, didn’t expect them to be standing amongst those carrying the statues. When I asked one of my friends that was carrying the statues how he got to be a part of the procession, he told me it’s because his nannu and his father had carried these statues in past years. This is proof that even though we may not be as religious as past generations or we may not seem as ‘interested’, the respect and passion to keep such a tradition alive is definitely there.
In hindsight though, like I mentioned above, we are in changing times and we can keep Maltese traditions alive by other means, they don’t have to be already established events like a festa.
Like I mentioned above, we are planning to go to Malta next April to the Convention of Maltese Living Abroad to represent the Maltese-Australians in Australia. One of the things we want to take to this convention is a paper to present which highlights such issues like the above mentioned and hopefully bring something practical back to put in place so that something like a festa can live on in Australia.
We are going to represent YOU, therefore we need YOUR input, your thoughts, your suggestions on Maltese traditions in Australia!
I’m hoping to have an open discussion about this, please comment your thoughts, opinions below… My question to you all is; What are your thoughts or concerns in regards to carrying on existing Maltese traditions? Do you have any suggestions on how we can achieve to keep Maltese culture alive in Australia by other means?
*Please note that anything written on this post may be used and quoted in our paper for the Convention of Maltese Living Abroad 2015.
© Copyright Charmaine Cassar 2014