There are many traits that define the Maltese; being lazy, having strong opinions, and eating a bit too much are some of them. But perhaps the most Maltese trait of all, is pika.
No, not that one.
Pika is a competition-based-spitefulness common amongst most Maltese people that will make you want to be better than literally everyone you know. Just so you can say that you’re better.
Spite is such a defining trait of us Maltese, that the BBC dedicated an entire article to the concept of pika
In the article, freelance journalist Justin Calderon explores why the Maltese have such a competitive nature, and attempts to explain the notion of pika to readers. Calderon focuses largely on the competitiveness of village feasts, and even travels to the heart of pika here in Malta; Qormi (second only on the pika-scale to Ħamrun), where he met with Mario Cardona, head of the technical college at MCAST and Saint Sebastian enthusiast.
“Pika is the need to keep making things bigger in order to outdo your rival… It’s having to satisfy a need to constantly prove to yourself, to your kin and to outsiders. Rather than going for what is beautiful and entertaining, we go for what would be a first in our village.”
Calderon also spoke with Professor George Cassar, a lecturer of heritage and cultural tourism at the University of Malta. Prof. Cassar makes reference to a couple of moments in Malta’s history when pika reigned supreme. My personal favourite is that time in 1958 when the owners of the Carmelite Basilica in Valletta tore the basilica down, just to rebuild it with a new 42m-high dome. Why did they do that?
“Just to overshadow the Anglican Cathedral next door”. Ovvja.
The article also makes reference to the infamous Sliema-banner-battle that took place over the summer of 2018.
Oh, and the time X Factor UK winner Ben Haenow flew to Malta… to perform at the Qormi festa. Let’s not forget that happened.
Calderon was immersed right into festa-culture
As Mario Cardona gave him a tour of the Soċjetà Filarmonika Pinto Banda San Sebastjan in Qormi, where he learnt about how “parishes compete in a paradoxically sacrilegious celebration of the sacred”. You may think that sounds like a bunch of complicated words strung together, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But those words basically mean that the members of competing parishes write rude songs about each other. Not a very religious way to celebrate a religious day.
Band club member John Camilleri told Calderon that he blames the church “for a big part of the pika in Malta”.
“In Maltese festas, favouritism is exhibited by priests supporting one saint over another, who elect their favoured parish to hold the grandest feast while their rivalries are forced to hold a less-decorated ‘secondary feast’. Some priests even count lightbulbs in the secondary feast to see that they didn’t have as many as the primary feast. Secondary feasts cannot light up the dome of a church, either. This creates a lot of pika.”