That Malta’s religious traditions are an intrinsic part of our culture is no secret, but the passion and dedication of the new generation who grew up with the temptations and trappings of the modern world gives one pause to reconsider just how strong the pull of the village festa truly is.
Last weekend, all around the Maltese Islands, Good Friday and Easter processions left tourists in awe as Malta’s religiosity was put on full display. Among the processioners were many young faces, ready to undergo three hours in cold winds, dressed shabbily and carrying a heavy cross, all in dedication to the Lord.
One such youth is Jamie Mifsud, born and raised in Mosta, and deeply within the heart of his town’s traditions
At just 18 years old, Jamie has become a familiar face in Mosta’s celebrations, regularly pitching in throughout the year and helping out in preparation for the celebrations… and this weekend was no different.
“Prior to this weekend’s celebration, there are 40 days of preparation, in which there are three other processions in Mosta,” Jamie told Lovin Malta on Easter Monday.
“The first is on Ash Wednesday (Ras Ir-Randan) in the form of a procession with a cross, and the next is three weeks before Good Friday, a procession of Christ the Redeemer (Redentur) in which I took part by carrying the statue. The other procession is one week before Good Friday, with the statue of our Lady of Sorrows (Duluri),” he said.
As a university student, Jamie’s knowledge of local traditions is just as strong as his education – at this point, he’s been involved in over a decade
“I’ve been participating in the Good Friday procession since 2006, so for the last thirteen years, from the age of six,” he beams. “I’ve done various things during the years from carrying statues, to doing the forċina, to carrying a lamp and to this year’s experience, which was completely new.”
“On Good Friday, it was rather challenging as I had to carry the cross for three hours, which was surprisingly heavy,” he said. “But when I managed to do all the procession and entered back in the Basilica it was of great satisfaction. For the first time, I did not carry a statue, but instead represented one of the thieves who were crucified next to Jesus. I was stationed in front of the Vara il-Kbira and I had to carry a wooden cross on my shoulders. I also had chains on my hands, waist and feet which make it more realistic.”
While Good Friday’s work was tough in dedication to the solemn day, Easter Sunday’s event was much more fun.
“Sunday morning is a fun experience with my friends which I look forward to doing each year,” Jamie explains. “On Easter Sunday, I had a minor role, not in the evening procession but in the morning. Every year in Mosta, the 9.30am mass of Easter Sunday is directed at children, so after the mass, the statue of the resurrection of Jesus is taken out on the zuntier where children with Easter eggs and figolli would waiting for the statue to come out. That was my part: I carried the statue with my friends on the zuntier for around five minutes.”
As far back as Jamie remembers, he’s been engrossed in Mosta’s religious traditions
“I remember once – I was still young – I stayed at the church looking at everyone preparing the statues, which happens three weeks before Good Friday,” he said.
“I attribute my interest in Good Friday to my grandpa who was also involved, mainly in carrying the statues. Then, it was my father who started getting involved and facilitated the way for me to increase my interest and also to continue participating.”
Pictured above: Jamie’s father, Paul Mifsud, leading one of the recent processions
For Jamie, it’s important for young Maltese people to continue practicing the island’s unique traditions – indeed, each town or village has its unique approach to what might look like the same procession.
“Keeping traditions alive is very important for me, not only for the general Good Friday traditions in Malta, but also for the traditions which are specifically in Mosta,” he pointed out. “It’s mainly how we walk with the statues, which is called il-pass, which varies from one place to another.”
“Also, during this week it is easier to stop from the hustle of my life,” he continues. “I’m therefore able to concentrate not only on what is happening in my life, but also on the Passion that Christ passed from.”
For anyone who might be interested in joining in with their town’s local traditions, Jamie is full of encouragement.
“To anyone who would like or want to participate in their villages procession, I would tell them to go for it,” he said. “It’s an amazing experience where you meet different people who are also taking part in the procession and also you feel as if you are living the experience that happened more than 2,000 years ago.”
And as for the traditional Easter running with the statue, Jamie cannot wait.
“It is difficult to say when, but if the opportunity comes, I would surely run with the statue on Easter!”