Lent in Malta
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Lent begins by Ash Wednesday (Ras ir-Randan), that is obligatory for fasting. On this day celebrate mass by putting ash on people head so sometimes called it also l-Erbgħa tal-Irmied and after the evening mass held a procession like a pilgrimage with the statue of the Redeemer (Ir-Redentur) among the centre of many localities in Malta and Gozo, the biggest pilgrimage held at Senglea.
Preparations for the solemn Easter festivities commence forty (40) days before Easter Sunday (Ħadd il-Għid), starting on Ash Wednesday, which in itself is the first day of penitential period following the end of the Carnival celebrations. The older generation will recall that not so many years ago fasting (sawm) on a daily basis was obligatory. Rules in this respect have now been relaxed considerably, and obligatory fasting is now limited to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. There are also people that do not eat meat and sweets, every Wednesday and Friday throughout these 40 days. Holy week starts during the last week of lent with Palm Sunday, commemorated a week before Easter Sunday.
Until recently, throughout the Lenten period, the interior of Maltese churches would be draped in purple, with statues and paintings covered in mourning crêpe.
Lenten sermons (eżerċizzji), meant to bring about reconciliation between man and his Creator, are held in all parishes in Malta and Gozo over a number of days, generally in the evenings. The traditional Way of the Cross is another very popular devotion during this period, with the faithful meditating at the fourteen Stations of the Cross (Via Sagra) relating various episodes of the Passion and Crucifixion of Our Lord.
A number of penitential pilgrimages are also held, and statues depicting scenes from the Passion are venerated in several churches. And some churches also dress in black damask.
Our Lady of Sorrows DayEdit
The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (Id-Duluri) has a very special place in the hearts of thousands of Devotees. This feast is traditionally celebrated on the Friday before Good Friday, with the faithful walking in the procession behind penitential pilgrimages in practically every town and village. Traditionally, some of the penitents walk barefoot or drag heavy chains tied to their feet, in fulfilment of some vow for favours received through divine intercession. The most popular Our Lady of Sorrows procession, is that one that held in the church of Our Lady of Jesus, in Valletta.
From Palm Sunday to Maundy ThursdayEdit
Holy Week (Il-Ġimgħa Mqaddsa) celebrations start on Palm Sunday (Ħadd il-Palm), commemorating Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. However, celebrations used to start on the Wednesday after Palm Sunday called l-Erbgħa tat-Tniebri when all the candles in church used to be switched off except one which symbolised that only Jesus' faith stayed "lit", today celebrations really take off on Maundy Thursday (Ħamis ix-Xirka), with the commemoration of the Last Supper (L-Aħħar Ċena). Traditionally, the faithful pay visits to seven Altars of repose (Sepulkru), preferably in different churches. Several artistic examples of these Altars, beautifully decorated for the occasion, are to be found in a number of parishes in Malta and Gozo. But the most popular are the Altars of Repose that set in the churches of The Three Cities, Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea. On Maundy Thursday, in some localities also stop the working of the bell, and took the work of the bell the Ċuqqlajta, this is very popular in Żejtun.
Representations of the Last Supper table are put up in many towns and villages, and typically, the food used in these displays is distributed among the poor and needy of the parish.
Good Friday (Il-Ġimgħa l-Kbira) is a day of penance, and this is strictly observed through the veneration of the Cross (is-Salib) and through traditional Good Friday processions in different parishes. Statues representing various scenes from the Passion and Death of Christ, several of them veritable works of art by local artisans, are carried processionally. Figures dressed in Biblical, Roman and Jewish attire also take part, as do the local bands playing funeral marches. It is said that the first procession in Malta was in Rabat and the first one in Gozo was at Victoria (Rabat)
The following site is about Good Friday celebrations in Valletta, the Capital City of Malta)
The Good Friday ritual in Malta includes visits to seven tabernacles, or "Altars of Repose", in seven different churches. Sombre, and solemn religious processions and pageants are held in many towns and villages, with statues and costumed, local amateur actors representing scenes from the Passion of Christ. In some parts of Malta, these processions will include a number of penitents dressed in white robes and hoods, walking barefoot (or occasionally with chains tied to their ankles) as an act of penance or in fulfilment of a vow. This is a unique, medieval tradition which still survives today. Easter Sunday in Malta, by contrast, is marked by the incessant pealing of church bells, and festive, fast-paced processions, with the youth of each town running through the streets bearing sculptures of the Risen Christ.
Notable observances of Holy WeekEdit
The scene changes dramatically on Easter morning, and the triumphal Resurrection of the Lord is traditionally celebrated with a morning procession with the statue of the Risen Christ (L-Irxoxt) which is carried shoulder high by parishioners. The statue bearers actually run with the statue through the main streets of the town or village to the applause of the crowds. Throughout the procession people throw paper confetti from windows and balconies adding to the joyous atmosphere of the day. In contrast to the sombre and solemn Good Friday processions, on Easter Sunday brass bands play joyous tunes all along the procession. Children too enjoy, thanks to gifts of Easter Eggs (Bajd tal-Għid) and local traditional 'figolla', usually a pastry figure of a lamb or fish which carry with them and hold out to be blessed by the Risen Christ as the statue makes its way past them. Whilst a good number of localities hold these processions, the most popular with locals are those held in the Three Cities of Isla (Senglea), Birgu (Vittoriosa) and most notably Bormla (Cospicua).
Traditional food eaten throughout the periodEdit
Traditional Maltese food for the Lenten period includes qagħaq tal-Appostli (Apostles' Rings), which are circular loaves of unleavened bread studded with roasted almonds and sprinkled with sesame seeds, and honey cakes known as kwareżimal (the name refers to the quadragesima, or 40 days of Lent). On Easter Sunday children are rewarded for their abstinence from sweets throughout Lent by means of a figolla, or Easter cookie made with almond paste, covered in sweet, coloured icing, and formed in a festive shape, such as a rabbit, a fish, a baby chick, a duck or a traditional Maltese fishing boat (dgħajsa).
Traditional food of the Lent period and Good FridayEdit
- Kwareżimal (Lent cake)
- Karamelli (Julep sweets)
- Pastizzi tal-Inċova (Anchovy cakes)
- Torta tal-Ħaxu (Riccota pie)
- Qagħqa tal-Appostli (Apostles ring bread)
- Qaqoċċ (Artichoke)
- Bebbux (Snails)
- Qassatat tal-ħelu (sweet biscuits)