The Holy Week and Easter is one of the most culturally rich times on Malta and Gozo. All the religious heritage with its emotion and remarkable dedication comes to life, often to amazement of tourists. The Holy Week is celebrated throughout all Malta and Gozo with many processions, exhibitions, pilgrimages and other activities.
The churches often hold exhibitions of miniature statues of the Passion of Christ, or set up elaborate Last Supper displays. Sometimes, you will see the hallways of private houses decorated in liturgical purple, with crucifixes or statues of the Passion on show.
For processions, the devotees wear costumes of the participants of the drama. They are dressed as apostles or Roman soldiers. Children often carry replicas of the elements of the Passion – a bag with money, nails, water to wash hands, a crown of thorns, or boards with the final utterances of Jesus.
The three main statues are those of Christ wearing a crown of thorns, Christ carrying the cross and Veronica holding the cloth with the face of Jesus imprinted on it. These images would be familiar to every Catholic through meditations on the stations of the Cross that are done throughout Lent.
In Gozo, the most popular and moving of those meditations, the Way of the Cross, is held on the evening of Palm Sunday on the hill of Ta Ghammar opposite Ta Pinu basilica.
On Maundy Thursday, it is a popular Catholic custom to make a pilgrimage to seven churches after Mass. The Mass on Holy Thursday includes the traditional washing of the feet, a commemoration of the act of service that Jesus performed for his Apostles. After Mass, the priest places the consecrated host, which Catholics believe to be the Body of Christ, on a side altar, called the Altar of Repose, lavishly decorated for the occasion.
The visits to the altars commemorate the night in Jerusalem before the crucifixion, when Jesus was led from the Garden of Gethsemane to prison. It is also a reminiscence of his exhortation to the apostles to watch and pray.
The churches are open until late at night, exhibiting Last Supper displays and Passion statues in their parish halls. The most elaborate Last Supper display on the islands is set up in St Dominic’s church in Valletta, Malta. The food used in these displays is later distributed among the families in need.
In Gozo, a live re-enactment of the Last Supper is taking place in the village of Ghajnsielem on the evening of Maundy Thursday and the morning of Good Friday, in the field opposite the parish church (marked by a big cross which is visible from afar). The reenactment is complete with live animals and a kitchen with traditional Passover food.
Several villages hold processions with statues and crosses on Good Friday, to commemorate the suffering and crucifixion of Christ. On Gozo, the most popular Good Friday processions are in Xaghra and Victoria. With brass bands playing funeral marches, hooded men walking barefoot with chains on their feet, life-sized statues and the sombre mood, the processions touch upon universal themes of betrayal, suffering and liberation.
Processions are also held on Easter Sunday with the statue of the Risen Christ. In some villages, you will see the bearers run with the statue on Sunday morning to celebrate the victory of Christ over death.
Do not miss a taste of the typical sweet Easter delicacy known as ‘Figolli’ which one can find in all confectioneries around the islands.
Good Friday will be commemorated on the 2nd April while Easter Sunday is celebrated on 4th April in 2021.
English Speaking Catholic Community in Gozo:
The English speaking Catholic community normally has masses at the chapel of the Seminary in Gozo, as well as in Ta Pinu church once a month. For updated situation on masses and events, it is always best to check with them directly: http://www.esccgozo.org/
You can also always refer to the complete Mass Schedule in English across all Malta and Gozo.