This week Catholic Malta gears up to celebrate the passion, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. In a few days our streets will be full of devout and repentant folk eager to repent from their sins and awaiting atonement, visiting churches (seven to be exact) on Maundy Thursday to pray for forgiveness and to ensure that the newest outfit bought from some expensive designer outlet gets noticed by the community . This week, the line that separates the sacred from the profane will be a very fine one, in the traditional processions that have been going on for more than two hundred years and that attract people from all over the island this is the most obvious with the solemnity of the occasion being somewhat perturbed with the flamboyance of some of the costumes on parade. It is the holy week, culminating on Easter Sunday with the feast of the risen Lord and the end to forty days of fasting (and bingeing on Quaresimal). This day, marked as the most important in the Catholic calendar will be celebrated with pomp and bell ringing in our churches and with the exaggerated consumption of figolli and Easter eggs.
This small island of ours has always been big when it comes to celebrating something. Feasts are no exception. As they say, it is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog, and we Maltese are always at ready to remind this to ourselves and demonstrate it in all public displays. We are so conscious of our size that we want to be larger and louder in everything we do. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It brings the best out of us, and in certain sectors it instils a competitive edge. When this competitiveness is curbed and ushered in the right direction the results can be amazing.
During this time of the year, our villages and towns are overflowing with artisan displays depicting the holy week. The talent is immense and sometimes it is hard to believe that all the work done is done after office hours by people who do it purely for their own satisfaction. Band Clubs, youth centres and even individuals go to great lengths to ensure that the end product is as realistic as possible. One cannot really describe in writing what these exhibitions have to offer but they are definitely worth visiting, both to capture the religious aspect and even to appreciate the artistic capabilities of the organizers.
This is what makes Malta unique, with all the good and the less good, this is the Malta that we want to preserve, the Malta that is worth visiting, the Malta that never ceases to surprise. For far too long we have promoted events that can also be found in other countries, we have promoted the sea and the sun and that is a good thing, but the sea and the sun can be found in hundreds of other places in the world. We are lucky to have something that is unique, something that we should be proud of and that will surely be appreciated.
With all our misgivings, we are a nation that is ever so resourceful and when our energy is aimed at the right things, the results are astounding. True, we do go overboard sometimes but that is in our nature and it will never change, in fact it is part of what makes us stand out in a crowd.
Many traditions in Europe and even in Malta have died a natural death, making way to new ideas and practices such as Halloween, imported from the new world and elsewhere, we cannot allow this to go on, the onus is on us to make sure that we keep our European, Maltese and Christian traditions alive so that we can pass them on to our children and our grandchildren. It is heart-warming to see processions full of young participants, we should encourage this and at the same time teach our young ones what this time of the year really means.
Yes, the world is moving at a fast pace, yes we need to adapt to new realities in life but we must never forget where we started from, where we came from and what made us what we are.