Every country and culture has its weird traits and traditions, and Malta is definitely no exception. A tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean with one of the richest histories in the world, Malta has seen a number of weird traditions, confusing urban legends, and simply batshit traditions.
Thanks to a recent post on popular Facebook forum The Salott (along with the help of a nanna or two), here are 11 of them. Recognise any of them?
1. Give nuns raw turkeys so it doesn’t rain on your wedding day
Now here’s a pretty weird one. Don’t ask how raw turkeys, nuns, and the weather are connected, but they are according to this tradition, and a lot of people out there still adhere to it (a turkey donation won’t really hurt).
Tradition even dictates the raw turkey be donated to one specific convent in Sliema.
2. Don’t sweep the house at night
According to this tradition, sweeping the floor at night brings bad luck to the family (the saying in fact goes “Imut il-Kap”). In some households, in fact, the father would sweep the floor himself, to make sure he wards off the bad luck and gets a clean floor. Talk about hitting two birds with one stone.
3. Throw a piece of bread out in the street to stop heavy rain
For a hot and dry country that should celebrate every time it rains, we sure have a lot of traditions to supposedly avoid it.
The piece of bread, specifically ħobż ta’ Sant’ Antnin, is meant to have some miraculous effect on the current heavy rain, literally opening the heavens with some flour.
4. Put a pair of horns above your door to ward the residents against evil
You can still spot this sight above the doors of a lot of old houses and barns around Malta. Other people go for a more direct and personal approach, actually putting up a horn sign with their fingers whenever someone says something they think might actually curse them.
5. Avoid being born on the 24th of December, because you’ll transform into the Gawgaw
Yes, we’re aware of how batshit it is to say “avoid being born on this day,” but there you go.
Apparently, people who are born on the 24th of December “do not belong” because they “stole” the Day of The Lord (Christmas Day). They become one and haunt the streets as the Gawgaw, a disfigured monstrous ghost. To escape this fate, they have to stay up from 11pm on Christmas Eve until Christmas morning, counting the holes in a colander (some believe they need to count rice, which is equally frustrating).
On the next day, it’s business as usual for them. If they didn’t do the specific task the night before, however, they wake up totally exhausted and all bruised.
6. Don’t place a new pair of shoes on the table
Hygienically speaking, this is never a good idea.
We’re willing to bet an angry housewife from a century or two ago came up with this to sway her naughty children (and nonchalant husband) from ever doing this again.
7. Set the clocks on church belfries to slightly different times to confuse the devil
Not knowing which one is the correct time will supposedly confuse the devil, and he wouldn’t be able to cause any evil during mass.
Lucifer may be powerful and cunning, but he should probably invest in a wristwatch.
8. Burn olive leaves and hold them up as you walk through the house to drive out evil spirits
The tradition, known as Tbaħħir, uses olive leaves from Palm Sunday.
In fact, this is where the popular saying tal-aħħar ibaħħar comes from, meaning the last person out needs to burn the leaves (which, to be fair, does sound like a long and tiring routine).
9. Give a pregnant woman a little of whatever she’s currently smelling to eat, because if you don’t…
If she smells strawberries, find strawberries. If she smells bananas, find bananas. If you don’t, the baby will end up having a birthmark in the shape of whatever food she was smelling. A lot of people were quick to dismiss this tradition in particular, but one mother shared a story of how her daughter was actually born with a strawberry-shaped birthmark. Weird AF, to say the least.
On a similar note, never wish for something while pregnant and touch your belly at the same time, because your baby will come out with a wish-birthmark of that item.
10. Take your uncooked Sunday lunch roast to your local bakery because it’ll turn out tastier
Some people still do this tradition, but it was definitely more common in the past.
The local bakery’s wood-burning oven was always the best in the village, so we can kind of see where this one’s coming from. But one person recounted how her grandfather (who was a baker himself) would have punched metal plates that he would need to put in the dishes to distinguish all the client’s dishes… since he used to have at least 40 to 50 Sunday lunch roasts to cook every single Sunday.
11. Menstruation myths
There are quite a lot of these, but here are the top three: