Illustration by Guido Lanfranco of newwieħa hired for household mourning.Illustration by Guido Lanfranco of newwieħa hired for household mourning.

Feasting on a pig let loose on the streets with a bell hanging around its neck is a Maltese Halloween custom that is probably less known than the increasingly popular trick-or-treating.

And if you have never tasted the roast pork known as ħanżira tal-erwieħ, you are still in time to try the dish at the Inquisitor’s Palace on Friday, where it will be served to the sound of newwieħa’s wailing.

The roast pork is one of the dishes of a thematic supper that will be topped with a glass of the bittersweet drink maħluta.

Lanterns from a funerary hearse.Lanterns from a funerary hearse.

There will also be ftieti tal-għaża (toasted bread with garlic and parsley), kawlata (vegetable soup with pork) and għadam tal-mejtin (a bone-shaped almond-based sweet).

L-Għid tal-Erwieħ used to be celebrated by the faithful in remembrance of the souls that had not yet reached paradise and were still in purgatory, curator Kenneth Cassar said. The meal is traditionally held on All Souls’ Day – November 2 – but the activity, organised by Heritage Malta, is taking place at the palace in Vittoriosa on November 20.

Three hired mourners will set the mood during the event. Apart from following coffins in funeral processions, the newwieħa used to go into mourners’ houses and break some pottery items or turn pots upside down because people were not meant to cook following the passing away of a relative.

They usually relied on their neighbours, who would bring over some meals, Mr Cassar said.

Death symbols on the placards accompanying the tubru – an empty coffin set up in church.Death symbols on the placards accompanying the tubru – an empty coffin set up in church.

Apart from tasting traditional L-Għid tal-Erwieħ food, participants will be briefed about popular beliefs in the afterlife and there will be a display of artefacts illustrating aspects of traditional funerary rites.

One such tradition was the setting up of a tubru – an empty coffin covered with a cloth – in church on All Souls’ Day to set the atmosphere for people to reflect on the afterlife, Mr Cassar said.

On Friday, there will be a special tour of the palace with insights into the Inquisition and cases of supernatural invocations and apparitions before calling it a night in one of the 17th century palace’s prison cells.

Those who would like to sleep over need to take sleeping bags and torches with them.

Tickets can be bought from Heritage Malta sites and museums or from http://shop.heritagemalta.org . More information is on 2166 3731 or the official Inquisitor’s Palace and Heritage Malta Facebook pages.

L-Għid tal-Erwieħ food

Il-ħanżira tal-erwieħ

A pig with a bell around its neck would be let loose on the streets a few days before All Souls Day. Parishioners would feed it and, on the day, cook it to feed the poor.

Il-minestra tal-erwieħ

On the day, parishioners fill a common pot or cauldron with some vegetables they have at home. The cooked minestra would be served to the poor.

Il-ftiet tal-għaża

Pieces of bread garnished with oil, garlic and parsley are eaten in remembrance of the days when mourners would feed only on bread and meals prepared by their neighbours.

Is-sarvetta tal-erwieħ

Children would give up sweets on the day. At night, they would place a napkin under their pillow and in the morning they would find some sweets wrapped in it.