Parades, pageantry and pastries – it must be Easter on Gozo!
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!
This year, Easter in Gozo lasts from Saturday 18 March to Easter Sunday, 16 April 2017. However, the main activities take place in the two-week period between 1 and 16 April.
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, held in mid March.
Then, over the following two weeks, you will find a wide range of events taking place all over Gozo. These include art exhibitions, concerts, processions through village streets, and live passion plays. Full details can be found in the online booklet Easter in Gozo.
Holy Week Celebrations in Gozo
Between 1 and 6 April there are a number of religious events staged on Gozo. For example, in the evening of Saturday 1 April in Victoria, there will be a live re-enactment of the Passion of Jesus in 14 episodes. The performance begins in Vajringa Strret 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 Gharb (also on 1 April), and in Ghasri from 5 April there is a Good Friday exhibition which focuses on the face of Jesus Christ.
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: 7 April 2017
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: 8 April 2017
In 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: 9 April 2017
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.
Maundy Thursday: 13 April 2017
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.
Good Friday: 14 April 2017
Some of the largest religious processions take place on 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.
This video clip provides a quick glimpse of what you can expect:
Easter Saturday: 15 April 2017
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.
Easter Sunday: 16 April 2017
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 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.
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 special activities for our guests whatever time of year you visit. 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.