We often tend to consider everything we do as a result of a natural choice; something that is done, and should be done, by everybody around the world. Easter is no exception. We’re accustomed to the same celebrations year after another; the fasting and abstinence throughout the day, the sacred, artistic exhibitions, reminding us of the grim fate of Jesus Christ, the veneration of the cross in the afternoon and particularly the typical grand procession on Good Friday in the evening. The latter takes place in 14 towns around the islands featuring elaborate costumes and accessories alongside life-size statues carried on the shoulders. Then there is Easter Sunday, with the procession of a resurrected Christ doing the rounds in the village core to a lighthearted audience now gladly munching on figolli. However, if this sums up the typical traditions of many Christian devotees in Malta, it gives no detail whatsoever about the traditions of many other countries around the world, which in many instances have got nothing to do with ours.
With the turn of the century we’ve seen a surge in the number of realistic plays reciting the last hours of Jesus Christ. Producers of local theatre have taken their work into the streets, outside the typical theatre setting, in an attempt to symbolise the Jesus Christ’s way towards Golgotha. Despite efforts to come up with a high-quality production though, ours are easily forgotten when compared to that of Oberammergau for instance, which runs once every 10 years 7 days a week between May and October. Performed on open-air stages in this municipality of Bavaria, the passion play has been going on since 1634, right after the year when the plague threatened to wipe out the whole village. The production, considered as one of the most fundamental sources of money for the community, encourages many from around the world to visit Germany just for it.
No Meat, no chocolate and no soft drinks; this has pretty much been our interpretation of how one should do penance during lent. It is considered by the Maltese as the principal way how to demonstrate repentance for your sins, and to a certain extent it is true, because we are surely avid eaters. This might be interpreted as an extremely light and convenient way of how to go about expressing remorse, especially when contrasting all this to what happens in Pampanga, Philippines. Every year, the San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites see participants either whipping themselves with bamboo sticks tied to a rope or getting actually nailed until they feel cleansed of their sin. The same occurs in Spain, at the San Vincente de la Sonsierra, whereby participants dressed in white can be seen whipping their backs in an explicit manner in what is deemed to be one of the holiest days of the entire year.
It would not be a decent Easter without a figolla or a chocolate egg, especially for us Maltese, but some nations beg to differ. The real egg, the one that is often associated with the more-savoury experience, can still carry a legion of Easter implications in many countries. The Easter Egg roll is an annual event in the form of a race of decorated, hard-boiled eggs, with prizes and traditions varying slightly depending on the country. In the United States for instance the said egg roll takes place every Easter Monday at the White House, on the South Lawn, with Children aged 13 or younger rolling their egg through the grass with a long-handled spoon. Then there is the egg fight, a competition that is also known as egg tapping. It consists of teams of two tapping each other’s hard boiled eggs until the one with the highest number of accomplishments and with an egg still one whole, wins. The game, as any other, depends on the country within which it is played; some sort the competing eggs in colours whilst others demand that the broken egg gets reclaimed by the owner of the winner-egg. Bulgarian Christians take things to the next level by preserving the winner-egg for the next year as a token of good luck and a successful year ahead.
Pots and Kites
Easter Sunday celebrations in Corfu, Greece, tend to get hysterical. Forget the jubilant crowds filling your typical square, with the figolla ready in hand to get it consecrated prior to eating it. Forget the cheering thronging the narrow streets on Sunday morning, hinting at the resurrection of Christ. Things might not get that noisy here, but the clay pots smashing ceremony from balconies on Easter Sunday surely makes it a spectacle for many, both for Greeks and those coming from abroad just for it. Religious and symbolic undertones apart, this custom is nowadays a fun event for many, even though they may not know for sure why they’re doing it. But if smashing pots sounds bizarre and brutal to you, don’t flying huge, colourful kites make a pleasant scene? The skies of Bermuda on Good Friday get all dotted with numerous, colourful, multi-sided kites as families from all over the island spend the day together.
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Clifford Jo Żahra