The Maltese Culture
An interesting mix of customs and traditions that make the Maltese people truly unique
How can one best describe Maltese Culture?
In order to try to understand why the Maltese people are how they are today, one must look back to history for answers.
Picture this … A small seemingly defenseless island in the middle of the Mediterranean.
An island which saw one ruler after another, one nation after another, one empire after another invade or attempt to invade its shores.
A nation that fought hard to keep aggressors away, sometimes succeeding, other times failing.
A people that had to endure several years of foreign rule before it could finally claim independence and govern its own country.
7000 years of all this is no joke!
The Maltese People
It’s the people that ultimately make a nation. The Maltese people are known worldwide for their friendly nature and for their generosity.
However, their Mediterranean temperament is very evident in every day life and although it rarely ever results in conflict, the locals can easily get too worked up on what they’re most passionate about … be it family, religion, politics or anything else.
It seems that choosing sides is a national pastime, from rooting for a particular football team, glorifying a particular band club or blindly supporting a political party. In reality, it all boils down to the basic human need of belonging.
And what person doesn’t want that?
It is amazing how such a small island could go through so much and yet still establish its own unique identity.
Visitors to the island will probably notice that although very friendly and welcoming, Maltese people are a bit more reserved then their Mediterranean neighbours. Perhaps this is a direct influence from the British period. No one really knows.
Oral communication can be much louder than in Northern Europe and what may sound like shouting to you, could very well be normal everyday talk to the locals :)
Malta Government and Political issues
The Maltese political system consists of two large political parties, namely the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party and a few smaller movements. Although the number of smaller parties have increased over the past decade, their popularity did not increase enough for them to be able to obtain a seat in parliament.
This has invariably given the two major parties a lot of power. Rivalry between the two is great and you get generations upon generations of families voting for the same party over and over again. This fanatical behaviour has decreased over recent years, making the Maltese political arena “healthier.”
Maltese Culture: Religion in Malta
Malta is predominately Roman Catholic.
The country acknowledges freedom of religion but according to the constitution of Malta, Roman Catholicism is the state religion.
Although some 98% of the population profess that they’re Roman Catholics, only about 50% of the population attend religious services on a regular basis.
There are over 350 churches on the Maltese islands – that’s almost 1 church for every 1000 inhabitants.
Each town and village has its own parish Catholic church which is the focal point, with most localities having multiple churches scattered across the locality.
Most of the churches were built in the 17th century and are fine Baroque architecture examples.
A large percentage of the Maltese population takes an active part in the local village festa. The festa marks the feast day of the patron saint of the town or village. Get a sneak peek at what typically happens during a feast by visiting the following festa pages:-
- Feast of St Philip - Zebbug
- Feast of St Catherine - Zejtun
- Feast of Our Lady of Lilies - Mqabba
- Feast of St George - Qormi
- Feast of St Sebastian - Qormi
Malta Culture: Festa
page for more information on this very popular yearly tradition.
The Maltese islands have a long history of foreign occupation and so it is only natural that some local traditions were adopted as a result of years of foreign occupancy.
These “imported” traditions include having turkey for Christmas lunch for example.
However, make no mistake … there are countless customs and traditions that are unique to the island and an integral part of Maltese culture.
Like the Priedka tat-tifel for example, which literally means “The Child’s Sermon”.
Read all about this cute old custom in our
Maltese Xmas Traditions
Malta is also famous for its beautiful lace. The origins of Maltese Lace date back from the Knights of Malta period. Nowadays, this fascinating craft is kept alive by passionate lace makers.
Learn more about this elegant Maltese craft, by visiting the
Malta Lace Club
Maltese Culture: Education in Malta
School is compulsory from age 5 up to 16 years.
The state provides excellent education free of charge. The Church and the private sector also have a number of schools ranging from elementary to secondary and even post graduate, in various localities in Malta and Gozo.
The Maltese Language
The native language of Malta is the Malti.
The Maltese language is the only official Semitic language within the EU and it is written in Latin script. English is considered as the second language. Italian is also widely spoken.
If you want more detailed information on the Maltese language and also perhaps learn a few easy Maltese phrases, visit our
Maltese Culture: Sports in Malta
Football is huge in Malta and very much part of Maltese culture. Unfortunately, the local football league only has a number of professional players and the rest are amateurs.
This obviously hinders Maltese football teams from improving their game and so their standards of play are a bit below par compared to other football teams in Europe.
Nevertheless, the local league is followed by many enthusiastic supporters. The locals also support foreign clubs and national teams passionately. The majority of football lovers support either England or Italy. English teams are probably supported due to England’s long historical connection with the Maltese islands.
On the other hand, people support Italy and Italian teams largely due to the fact that the country is very close to Malta and also because many Italian TV channels are received in Malta and so supporters can easily follow their beloved teams.
This enthusiasm for foreign teams comes to a climax during important football tournaments such as the World Cup. If you’re ever in Malta during a World Cup, you will probably start thinking that you’re actually either in England or Italy with all the Union Jacks and Italian flags that you’ll see on the islands! :)
Waterpolo also has a devout and loyal following but it was never as widespread as football.
Horse racing is another very popular spectator sport and an integral part of Maltese culture. For more information on this old Maltese tradition, visit our
Horse Racing in Malta
Maltese Folk Music
Traditional Maltese folk music dates back to the 16th century and was always an important part in the every day life of Maltese people.
This type of local folk music is called ghana in Maltese (not to be mistaken with the country Ghana).
For more information on this type of Maltese music and singing which requires great skill, visit our
Maltese Folk Music
If you love experiencing new cultures and traditions while on vacation, we're sure that you will notice other things that the Maltese people do differently. Some things in Maltese culture will really stand out for you, depending on where you hail from.
It's these little things that make traveling such an enlightening experience!
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