The celebrations of Holy Week and Easter are primarily of a religious character, taking place in churches where the faithful gather in large numbers to commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.
Holy Week commences on the Friday preceding Good Friday, when the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows is carried in a procession through the streets of Valletta and many other towns and villages.
On Maundy Thursday - the eve of Good Friday - the ‘seven visits’ take place, which are the visits to seven different churches, to pay homage to the Altars of Repose.
Good Friday gives a sombre outlook, as churches are deprived of the traditional ornamental style. Late in the afternoon, various towns and villages commemorate the Passion of the Christ with a solemn procession of statues. Each of these statues represents a particular episode in the Passion of the Christ and is carried by bearers. Between one statue and another (some ten in all) participants are dressed as biblical characters who take part in the procession in a dignified manner. Many processions include men bearing a cross and sometimes dragging chains as well tied to their bare feet, as an act of faith or penance.
The mood changes totally on Sunday, when the ringing of church bells announces the Resurrection of Christ. Mid-morning on Easter Sunday, a procession with the statue of the Risen Christ moves along the streets accompanied by band playing festive tunes. At the end, the way is cleared and the statue-bearers take a run to carry the Risen Christ triumphantly back into the church.
Easter day is traditionally celebrated with a special family lunch. It is also a time to visit relatives and friends, exchanging good wishes and small presents. It’s also tradition to give children chocolate-coated easter eggs and a ‘figolla’, almond-filled pastry in the shape of a rabbit, lamb, fish or heart, covered in icing sugar.