Holy Week and Easter
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17th April - 20th April 2014.
Whatever your beliefs, Easter today represents a time for celebration of new life, spring and fertility. Named by the UK's Observer newspaper as one of the top ten sunspots to escape Britain's endless winter, Malta basks in bright sunshine for 330 days each year, with sun, local traditions and good food playing a big part in Easter celebrations on the island.
While Europe is struggling towards spring, Malta is basking in 17°C sunshine. And the family-friendly island is now even easier to reach with additional flights from various destinations across Europe.
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 Good Friday, various towns and villages commemorate the Passion of the Christ with a solemn procession of statues which represent episodes in the Passion of the Christ and are carried by bearers. Between one statue and another (some ten in all) participants dressed as biblical characters, take part in the procession in a dignified manner. Many processions include men bearing a cross or dragging chains tied to their bare feet as an act of faith or penance.
Easter Sunday announces the Resurrection of Christ and is celebrated by a procession with the statue of the Risen Christ moving 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 is also traditionally celebrated with a special family lunch. Local tradition is represented by exchanging chocolate-coated Easter eggs and a ‘figolla’, almond-filled pastry in the shape of a rabbit, lamb, fish or heart, covered with icing sugar.
The exuberance of Easter sweets and chocolate in Malta is a reaction to the absence of sweets during Lent. Figolli is the strongest Easter sweet tradition. The figolla gets its name from 'figura', the various figures which shape this delicious sweet. Making and then eating figolli is a very strong Maltese tradition, which today has become more than a simple culinary event.
Figolli-making is a culinary event which mothers share with their children. Extra figolli are made to give as gifts, whilst others make figolli for fund-raising events. Children then take their figolli to the Risen Christ procession to be blessed early on Easter Sunday morning, morphing into a culinary, social and religious affair. Children cannot touch a figolla before Easter Saturday evening...
Other popular Easter sweets in Malta include the sweet but salty ‘Sfineġ ta' San Ġużepp’, sometimes called 'Żeppoli', golf ball-sized pieces of dough stuffed with anchovy then fried until light golden brown, drained and dredged with confectioner's sugar. Usually eaten warm, these delicious ricotta-filled balls are consumed on St. Joseph's feast. Another treat to try is ‘Kwareżimal’, also known as almond biscuits, but shaped into a bigger log. Looks and tastes pretty much like gingerbread! This one is traditionally served during Lent. The strangely-named ‘Qagħaq ta' l-Apposti’ is essentially a circular loaf of bread which is very soft on the inside. The bread is decorated with roasted almonds and sesame seeds on the top. This is a popular treat around Easter and well worth trying with a nice warm cup of tea or coffee.
Easter is the time when spring weather starts to be regular, bringing with it new fresh fruit, vegetables and other produce and many visitors enjoy walking in Hotel Phoenicia's 7.5 acres of sun-kissed gardens. The stunning 7.5 acre garden allows guests to stroll through ornamental as well as working gardens, including a dedicated kitchen garden on over 5 tumoli that supplies the hotel's Pegasus restaurant exclusively with fresh produce, along with enjoying lush plants, flowers and trees on the way to the hotel’s magnificent pool shaded by the Valletta bastions.
Complimentary events organised exclusively for guests staying at the Hotel Phoenicia during this period include:
- Wednesday 16th April 2014: “Easter traditions” lecture by Mr. Vince Zammit in the Green Lounge C between 6pm and 7pm
- Thursday 17th April 2014: “Settimana Santa” - Tour of the 3 cities visiting statues, salt dispays and more
- Saturday 19th April 2014: “The Great Siege of 1565 – A Maritime Perspective” excursion by Dr. Timmy Gambin