L-Għid f’Malta

So as you all know, one by one, we (MAYC) will be making our way to Malta for the Convention for Maltese Living Abroad (April 20-24) in Valletta. I planned my trip to Malta so that I could experience Easter in Malta.

Holy Week starts a week before Good Friday, when the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows is carried in a procession through the streets of many towns and villages throughout Malta and Gozo. Easter in Malta is not all about figolli and anchovy pastizzi…

There are many traditions, processions, celebrations, masses, etc. in the lead up to Easter Sunday, the Maltese call it ‘il-Ġimgħa Kbira’.

Here’s one I didn’t know about till I arrived this week; on Holy Thursday the ‘seven visits’ take place, where you visit seven different churches, to pay homage to the Altars of Repose (an altar where the Communion hosts consecrated on Holy Thursday during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper are placed, and can also be used on Good Friday).

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I decided to spend Holy Thursday and Good Friday in my mother’s town, Xagħra Gozo. I visited the Basilica ta’ Marija Bambina (Xagħra), St John the Baptist Basilica – Rotunda ta’ Xewkija, the next biggest after ir-Rotunda ta’ Mosta (rotunda meaning dome), Our Lady of Loretu and Our Lady of Lourdes in Għajnsielem, Knisja tal-Patri a little further down, San Ġużepp in Qala and St Peter & St Paul’s in Nadur.

All churches have statues of the Passion laid out throughout the church, with a shrine where visitors pray.

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Good Friday has a sombre feel, and usually the weather in Malta compliments it. Churches are still open for visitors throughout the day to do the ‘seven visits’. Late in the afternoon, different towns and villages commemorate the Passion of the Christ with a solemn procession of the statues that are laid out throughout the town’s or village’s church. Each of these statues represent a particular part in the Passion of the Christ and is carried by bearers. Between each statue, locals who participate are dressed as biblical characters and also men (and women) wearing a white robe with a hood that covers their face providing anonymity, whilst some bearing a cross, dragging chains which are tied to their ankles, as an act of faith or penance.

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Here’s something that made my heart smile, another one of Malta’s traditions… On Easter Saturday, my aunt pointed out all the flags on everyone’s roof tops, and how they were all half-mast in respect of mourning for Jesus. On Easter Sunday, all flags were then full-mast in celebration of Christ’s rising.

Easter Sunday. The day I was looking forward to most. The whole reason why I planned my trip earlier than everyone else. I got to see “Ġirja bl-Irxoxt” (running with the Risen Christ). The day starts with mass, followed by a procession around the village with the Risen Christ. I spent my Easter Sunday in my father’s hometown of Raħal Ġdid in Malta. People cheering, confetti all through the streets, children running around with their sweets. The running with the statue is truly an amazing site to see.

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© Copyright Charmaine Cassar 2015

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