Street processions, marching bands, bell ringing, pageants, statue carrying, and passion plays. It's Holy Easter in Malta! It may even be busier than Christmas for its sheer organization. As many Maltese people are very religious, in most churches believers are gathering in large numbers to commemorate the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Holy Week in Malta starts on the Friday preceding Good Friday with the solemn procession when the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows is carried across Valletta and other towns.
Malta continues to celebrate on Palm Sunday when palm leaves and olive branches are blessed in churches, but the main festivities pick up during the Easter Triduum—Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. On Maundy Thursday, the Maltese people traditionally make the ‘seven visits’ (visits to seven different churches to pay homage to the Altars of Repose). On Good Friday, various towns and villages honor the Passion of Christ with solemn processions of statues in which participants are dressed as biblical characters. Some processions include men bearing a cross or dragging chains tied to their bare feet, as an act of faith or penance. The procession in Zebbug with horses and colorful costumes attracts many visitors due to its extravagance.
The holidays peak on Easter Sunday when the morning ringing of church bells announces the Resurrection of Christ. Traditionally, all events are held in churches. Joyful processions stroll through the streets accompanied by bands playing celebratory tunes. The village of Xaghra is home to Gozo Easter Festival with folk singing, dancing, and traditional Maltese food. Easter Sunday is also celebrated with a special family lunch. People visit relatives and friends, exchange good wishes and small presents. Children are given chocolate-coated Easter eggs and a ‘figolla’ — an almond-filled pastry in the shape of a rabbit, lamb, fish, or heart covered in sugar icing.