Easter and the week leading to it, called Holy Week, is a special time of the year on the Maltese islands with traditional activities that go back hundreds of years. It's a time of great importance as it combines solemn religious observance with community celebrations comprising processions and parades, colourful pageants, sacred music, choirs and, of course, food.
If you want to get a taste of authentic Gozitan traditions and lifestyle, then planning an Easter break on Gozo is the answer. And although the main events of Easter occur over a two week period, on Gozo things start to happen even earlier – so Holy Week should really be considered Holy Month!
We thought we'd give you a taste of how the Gozitans celebrate Easter and maybe tempt you to plan a holiday on Gozo in spring.
Pre-Easter activities on Gozo
One of the first events of the pre-Easter season is the Holy Week concert at the Church of St James the Greater, in Victoria.
You will also find a wide range of events taking place all over Gozo. These include art exhibitions, concerts, processions through village streets, and live passion plays.
Procession in Xagħra, Gozo - Photo by Alain Salvary
Holy Week Celebrations in Gozo
During Holy Week many religious events are staged on Gozo. For example, in Gozo’s capital there is a live re-enactment of the Passion of Jesus. The performance begins in Vajringa Street and winds its way through the streets to St Augustine's Square.
Other events include 'Lignum Vitaie' – a concert of sacred music and funeral marches in various villages.
The week before Easter on Gozo
During the week immediately prior to Good Friday, there is a tradition in Malta and Gozo for band clubs, churches and other local groups to create exhibitions of the Last Supper (Mejda tal-Appostli). These handmade, vivid tableaux are often made with coloured salt, and other foodstuffs such as dried pasta. Some feature life-size statues of the apostles. In the village of Nadur, a live re-enactment of the Last Supper is performed.
Our Lady of Sorrows
The Friday before Palm Sunday is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. This is a day of great devotion with fasting and prayer. All across Gozo, villagers will participate in animated pageants and processions following statues of the Holy Mary.
In Gozo's capital, Victoria, there is an open-air mass outside St James Church in Independence Square, followed by a religious procession through the streets.
Saturday before Palm Sunday
On the evening before Palm Sunday, villagers in Qala and Ghajnsielem gather to perform live versions of the Passion of Christ, including dramatic re-enactments of the crucifixion.
Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week, and is the day people celebrate the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem, a week before his crucifixion and resurrection.
You will find villages including Xewkija, Xaghra, Qala, Fontana and Sannat holding Palm Sunday Processions, involving many children and people in costumes waving palm fronds.
On the day before Good Friday, churches on Gozo cover their paintings with purple or black velvet drapes and many people will follow a tradition of visiting seven churches to pray in each of them.
Some of the largest religious processions take place in Gozo on Good Friday. The Good Friday processions usually take place around 6.00pm after Mass in the villages of Zebbug, Xaghra, Nadur and in Victoria. The mood is serious but the scale and colour of these solemn processions is impressive.
Devotional statues are carried slowly through the streets often accompanied by hundreds of local people, including children, dressed as Roman soldiers and biblical characters.
Another video clip here provides a quick glimpse of what you can expect:
By Easter Saturday, things become a little more cheerful. If you haven't already visited the local church near to your Baron Holiday Home, we recommend you do so on Easter Saturday. Traditionally, all the churches on the island are beautifully decorated with flowers and bring out all their various treasures on this day.
In the evening, a special Mass, or Easter Vigil, is held. This includes traditional blessings of baptismal water and fire. All the lights in the churches are switched off and everyone lights a candle. The flickering candlelight is a magical sight and symbolises the resurrection of Jesus.
Holy Week ends in style on Easter Sunday with much celebration and happiness. The day starts with the ringing of church bells all across Gozo. Lent is finally over so children can tuck into their chocolate Easter eggs and also enjoy taking their Figolla (traditional decorated biscuits made at Easter) to church, to be blessed.
After the Easter Mass many villages put on joyful, festive processions featuring statues of the Risen Christ, often accompanied by marching brass bands. You can see these processions throughout the day in Victoria, Kercem, Nadur, Xewkija, Zebbug, Qala, Xaghra, Fontana, and Gharb.
Easter eggs and figolli being blessed. Photo credit: www.timesofmalta.com
Easter food on Gozo
Just as with Christmas, food is an important part of the Easter and Holy Week traditions on Gozo. Families gather on Easter Sunday to indulge in a great Easter lunch (ham, rabbit and lamb feature prominently). It's perhaps not surprising that sweet pastries, bread and desserts are enjoyed as Lent is finally over.
If you're in the village of Xaghra over the Easter period you'll get the chance to enjoy Qassatat. Traditionally made on Good Friday, these cheese and raisin-filled pastries are a local delicacy.
Another seasonal favourite made by local bakeries on Gozo at Easter is Qagħqa tal-appostli. These comprise a large bagel with almonds on top.
Cassata Siciliana. Photo credit: findit.com.mt
Finally – look out for Gozo's favourite Easter Sunday dessert - Cassata Siciliana. This consists of a round sponge cake moistened with fruit juices, or liqueur, and layered with ricotta cheese, candied fruit and chocolate chips. The whole lot is then covered in green marzipan and topped with a cherry.
Ask us for help
Baron Holiday Homes is happy to organise car hire, tours of Gozo, and many other things to do on Gozo for our guests. Just get in touch and we'll tell you all you need to know about walks near to your rental property, special events in villages nearby, and other local information.
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