[WATCH] More than just religion...

After two-year hiatus Good Friday marks start of Malta’s religious and festa season

Following a gruelling two-year wait, religious procession enthusiasts will be returning to the streets of Malta next Friday.

Feasts, religious activities and processions were among the first activities to be barred at the start of the pandemic, and will make a full return during Good Friday.

Good Friday in Malta and in other Catholic communities around the world, marks the end of the 40-day period of lent leading up to Easter Sunday.

With the tradition dating back to medieval times, the day is marked by crowds of Christian devotees flooding the village squares around Malta and Gozo, to experience the Good Friday processions.

The pageants feature a cast of men, women and children dressed up as biblical characters, preceded by band players leading the way, setting a gloomy mood with their funeral music.

The processions also include a set of statues which depict the passion of Jesus Christ.

Each statue is carried by six to eight men.

Speaking to MaltaToday, Pierre Bugeja, one of the Bormla Good Friday Procession organisers, said uncertainty still lingered on for them, despite the multiple assurances by authorities that the activity will go on. “Given the experience of the last two years, we were never 100% certain it will go on, and if a sharp rise in cases could have led to the event being cancelled,” he said.

The two years when processions were not organised due to the pandemic has also left its effect on volunteers, with Bugeja stating participation numbers have gone down. “Getting people to participate was always getting harder, but this year the change has been noticed quite a bit.”

The organisers chose to act quickly and started to issue calls for volunteers at the local primary school, to get children and their parents interested in the processions. While still not achieving the desired numbers, the efforts seemed to have worked.

Surprisingly for the organisers, this year’s procession will see the participation of two South-African children and one American girl. “It was a surprise for us, we don’t even know if they believe in Christianity, but it has opened our eyes to realising we need to adapt our approach.”

“For example, we used to only publish Facebook notices related to the Good Friday procession in Maltese, and now we realised that we have to adapt our approach,” Bugeja said.

He said keeping up with the times is crucial for the tradition to sustain itself, especially in a locality like Bormla which has recently seen an influx of foreigners choosing to settle there.

For Bugeja Good Friday is more than just a religious feast. “It’s part of us. We can’t stop talking about it, since we were young boys we would be excited to participate, and unfortunately that sentiment seems to get lost as the years go by.”