Malta: The little country with huge community spirit
by Ross O'Dwyer
I was invited to Malta by a friend of mine (who is a native) and the thing that impressed me most, was the community spirit that was found in every town, village and city feast.
I loved the village feasts and the rivalry between each community to celebrate their saint.
I loved the way the whole village got involved from the decorating to the preparation of the fireworks to the serving of refreshments.
Most feasts in Malta, apparently last for a week with firework displays every night.
The Saturday night is the accumulation of all the villagers’ hard work and when they have the ground fireworks and use the best air fireworks.
We went to St. Joseph's feast in Ghaxaq on a Saturday night. The feast colours were green so every street had green garlands.
Even when we were just walking from the outskirts of the village we could feel the community atmosphere building up inside us.
For the feast, the church was decorated and Saint Joseph’s statue was proudly put on display.
I liked that flowers were donated by local families and placed at the side altars of the church.
The statue itself looked pretty impressive, as well as its ornately decorated base.
Lots of tourists were taking pictures of it but locals were also doing the same.
In the village square there was a great atmosphere where the band played.
We then made our way to the band hall. Apparently, each feast has its own band and the band headquarters is done up for the feast. The band headquarters was a nice modern building with a bar and granite staircase paid for by local donations.
I was told by my friend that most feasts have firework displays which are made by local volunteers so we went to the viewing area where the fireworks are supposedly timed to music.
The fireworks were very ornate and went well with music. The more traditional fireworks were then shown. As the night progressed, the fireworks became more intricate and elaborate.
I was impressed with the length of time the fireworks lasted for (almost 3hrs).
You would not realise that these weren’t professionally made and that they were probably made in someone’s barn. After the fireworks finished we moved to look at the ground fireworks. For me, this was a whole new experience as I had seen firework displays in Dublin but never ground ones.
Again local villagers had designed and made these. It started with the simpler cartwheel type fireworks and progressed on to much more complex installations.
Some of them were new and experimental and when they worked, the group who had made them cheered and jumped about the place. It was great to see such enthusiasm and community spirit. As one firework went out, another was lit and the crowd moved closer to catch a glimpse of the next ground firework.
Overall we really enjoyed the night. Even though I was a foreigner, it felt like I was part of that community.
I think more tourists should come to experience these community events instead of staying in their hotels.