Malta and Gozo’s beautiful feasts – Alfred Grech
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Maltese and Gozitan traditional feasts are a source of cultural pride. They are centuries old and have been passed on for generations and each of them has its own distinctive nature. I love feasts and attend as many as I can to be part of the vibrant celebrations that are generated from many hearts that bind together to give honour to their patron saint.
People in each town and village all come together as one on this very special day to generously express their love and admiration for God and his servants and martyrs. Being there one can witness the fruit of love the people have produced on this special occasion, especially coming from the volunteers in each sector from hard work to desk jobs such as preparing the annual souvenir magazines.
Each time I visit a feast in a town or village, I explore the area where I find some very pretty scenery, ancient buildings, farmhouses and little old chapels. To integrate with the locals is most fruitful and entertaining. They are ever friendly and warm and they enjoy sharing some of the history of their village with me. I find each town and village has its distinguishing characteristics.
To me, feasts are the Maltese culture in full colour. I love the church functions, the bands, the concerts, the church and streets decorations, the fireworks, the ringing of the bells and all the noise and junk food that come with them.
Which one is the best? They are all beautiful and deserve a reward. Some are bigger than others, but even the ones in the small villages are equally beautiful. I love steaks and fillet mignon, but I also like hamburgers, chips and hobz biz-zejt. Different foods but equally satisfying.
I was born and raised in Qormi. My father always took us to enjoy the feasts of both parishes and I still like them both and attend them every year. I know of others around Malta and Gozo who do the same. It is a pity that so many people do not bother to go to the feast of the “other” parish.
What truly saddens and puzzles me is the hatred shown by some people who care to offend the ones of the “other” parish or the “other” club. Insulting others is not the way to “honour” their patron saint. Also, it is horrifying when I see little kids on their father’s shoulders during a band march and these kids utter insults to the “other” side. These kids will grow up with the same hatred that unfortunately some of the old fashioned “devotees” have grown up with.
Malta and Gozo are our islands. What takes place in them belongs to each and every one of us. The feasts should make us very proud, knowing that they are there for our devotion and celebration and knowing that even tourists are truly enchanted with what takes place in these celebrations.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before” is the most common comment I hear from tourists in various towns and villages.
Imagine a village with two parishes and/or two band clubs participating together in each others’ feast – what a success that would be! It happens already in quite a few places – let’s hope others follow their example and celebrate together.
If parish A has more fireworks or decorations than parish B, so what? I loved every feast I went to. Even if they were not on a par with regard to decorations or whatever, they were still beautiful and entertaining. By not attending the “other” feast, many are losing a lot. The parish priests need to educate their parishioners more and make them understand that what some are doing is not only uncivilised but is also a sacrilege. Certain band clubs should shoulder the responsibility to ensure that feasts take place without any incidents and they should ban the insulting lyrics that are sometimes sung during band marches. How these lyrics are permitted is a puzzle to me.
Celebrating together will bring more harmony to each town and village and make the feasts more successful and enjoyable – as we see in places where friendship reigns. It takes maturity and dignity to achieve this and with a bit of effort we can see it happen.
The bottom line is that these feasts are meant to honour God through the patron saints for having been good Christians and for being faithful to Christ. All saints deserve honour, even those of the “other” parish.
I would like to thank both ONE TV and NET TV for their coverage of various feasts in Malta and Gozo. If I don’t watch them live, because I’m attending another feast, I always enjoy watching the re-runs. They are programmes worth watching and the stations’ efforts are truly appreciated. A big thank you also goes to all those in church, band clubs, fireworks and street decorations organisations and others who work so hard for the success of their respective feasts. You’re all beautiful.