Easter in the Med

 

Malta is a largely Catholic island, and the rhythms of religion influence the cycles of life here, just as they have for centuries.

One of the biggest events of the calendar year is Easter. For those of you unfamiliar with Christian traditions, Easter commemorates the time when Jesus Christ was crucified, died and rose from the dead.

Christians celebrate this event because they believe Christ died to redeem them of their sins. That may or may not be your cup of tea. Personally, I’m just in it for the Cadbury eggs. But you can still enjoy the island’s Easter traditions whether or not you believe Christ existed, or that he was the son of god.

The village I’m living in holds one of the largest Good Friday processions on the island. Hundreds of people are involved, and the costumes are really incredible. It starts with early Biblical characters and leads up to the story of the passion of Christ. The events of Christ’s final hours are illustrated with massive traditional floats, carried by 8 people who quite literally stagger beneath the weight of their responsibilities. And when I say “procession” I’m not talking about your typical small town parade. The stream of participants shuffled past for over 2 hours!

It’s incredibly rare to see tourists in this village. But they sure bussed ‘em in for Good Friday last weekend!

Despite the festivity, this is a solemn occasion. Black banners draped the streets. Two marching bands played funeral dirges. And participants walked the route in mourning.

I posted some photos below, to give you a feel for what it’s like to spend Easter weekend in a traditional village in the Mediterranean. If you ever get the chance, it’s worth checking out.

Ramses the Great — scourge of Moses — represents Egypt…

What Biblical scene is complete without a shepherd…?

Some of these floats are hundreds of years old…

The Roman costumes were my favourite of the bunch…

Why hello Roman ladies…!

I’ve gotta get myself one of those Centurion outfits!

A local man in the role of one of the two thieves…

Penitents stagger beneath the weight…

 

All images © Tomoko Goto, 2012.

 

 

Comments

  1. Great photos, Ryan. There’s similiar to-dos in Baja for Easter (I’m missing it this year), though we’ve witnessed only the smaller village event. I’m sure there’s much bigger goings on in La Paz. In any case, People do flock to the beaches though, and wherever there’s a crowd, there’s a food cart, usually with something amazingly good offerings. It’s a curious mix of devotion, eating, and excessive drinking by the end of the weekend.

  2. Susen Kaylo says

    It looks absolutely awesome!! Sure puts our Santa Claus parade to shame. Man, I’d love to have been there experiencing this.

    • Ryan Murdock says

      They do it every year, so get it on your calendar! I think what amazes me most about it is that everyone’s a volunteer, and they all create or buy their own costumes. They really go all out.

  3. Natalie Kilbey says

    Thanks for sharing these gorgeous photos with us Ryan. I find other cultures and their traditions very interesting…as I feel we are lacking a little of that where I live. This is a great look into the cultures of another place as it is remembering another time.

    • Ryan Murdock says

      Glad you liked it Natalie. It was much the same for me growing up in small town Canada.

      That’s what I love most about Europe: history, so many different cultures and traditions. And it’s a place where art matters, and is part of everyday life.

  4. Though not as ceremonious as the Good Friday Processions, similar celebrations run throughout Germanic Europe normally around the time of Lent. Fasching (Germany) and Fastnacht (Switzerland) “…traces its roots back to Roman celebrations marking the end of a long winter and to the Middle Ages. Citizens once a year are free to express their thoughts about the world around them to the public in satirical verse without the threat of repercussions such as being thrown in the stocks or worse.” Ref: http://www.wiesbaden.army.mil/sites/about/ttd/fasching.htm.

    Driving through Switzerland years back, (traveling through my own Vagabond Dream), I came upon on of these grand parades and it’s feel was that everyone was relieved of their winter woes (fevers and miserable cold) and could let their hair down for a while. (et. al., Mardi Gras)

    Thanks for sharing this post Ryan. Great photos – I liked Ramses outfit.

    • Ryan Murdock says

      Hi Byron, thanks very much for sharing this, I didn’t know anything about the celebrations in Germany or Switzerland. It’s interesting how widespread these traditions are, and how deeply they reach into our collective past. I love learning about the pagan roots of what we think of as more recent practices.

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