This feature will not really deal with the earliest street decorations in Malta, as records show public spaces being temporarily embellished very long before the advent of photography. I limit myself to the display of ephemeral ornamentation of roads and squares since 1900.
Generally, these decorations appear seasonally, like for religious festas, or occasionally, like in the celebration of unusual social or political events such as royal visits, coronations, jubilees.
In modern times, they can become an adjunct to commercialisation, take Christmas street decorations, meant to coax shoppers into parting with their monies, all in the delusion of signing up to the ‘Christmas spirit’.
Lighting, statues on imitation marble pedestals, festoons, banners, bunting, valances (pavaljuni) predominate.
Before electricity, in religious feasts, the streets lit up with countless oil or wax lumini or fjakkoli. Endless chains of leaves or coloured tissue paper (karta strazza or tat-tajr – kite paper) ran parallel to, or criss-crossed, the buildings.
Most of the banners and pavaljuni, over the years, repeatedly replicate tired and overused baroque patterns. Nowadays, they can also come enlivened with real-life portraits of Midas tycoons, complete with saintly halos.
In the 1960s, Emvin Cremona had tried to breathe new life into the faux-baroque mortuary of street decoration but his brilliant efforts were short-lived.
Malta is today on a par with the outside world in most aspects of decorative design. But nowhere near in festa street decoration, though, lately, the principal Christmas street illumination has registered impressive advancement.
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