This summer I was in Malta for my vacation and I enjoyed a number of village feasts, especially that of my hometown Mosta. The following are some reflections from someone who has lived on another continent for a long time.

The village feasts have withstood the test of time. And rightly so, because they were not im-posed by any authority but mushroomed in all villages over the decades from the grass roots – the parishioners.

A Brazilian bishop who once visited our country was im-pressed by the fact that in Brazil the parishes organise feasts to collect money to support the parishes while in Malta the parishes collect money to organise a feast for the people!

I noted how every village has its own artistic decorations which have been well preserved by the dilettanti for all these years. They form part of our heritage.

Band clubs have flourished and I observe how they are open all year round, teaching both young boys and girls theory and practice on various instruments. I presume this is done free of charge or at a nominal cost. I was told there are about 4,000 band players all over Malta – quite a feat.

The fireworks are often looked down upon because of the cost they involve and the danger their composition entails – it is really and truly playing with fire, as the saying goes.

However, there seems to be hardly a social or political celebration that takes place without the firing of the traditional murtali and kaxxa infernali – the latter being derived from the word hell.

It makes one smile!

All this is fruit of the tenacity, perseverance, sense of sacrifice and love for their village which the enthusiasts demonstrate all year round, defying modernity.

…tenacity, perseverance, sense of sacrifice and love for their village which the enthusiasts demonstrate all year round, defying modernity

The tourist industry should be grateful to the organisers – priests and laity – and should pump more money into these activities, which are an enviable attraction to the tourists.

I liked what I saw in my own village festa except for a few things: the translation of the relic need not start from the oratory because the church is large enough for the procession to occur within it.

The band taking part in the procession with the statue of Santa Maria should have played more of the popular Oh Regina del Cielo Posiede, which, for me at least, is a Mosta hymn. It should alternate with other worthy compositions.

The parish administration should also make it a point to feature selections from the Oratorio composed by the late Charles Camilleri with words by Oliver Friggieri. This work places the devotion to Our Lady in the background of World War II.

 It is very touching indeed.

The festa organisers should also remember that we have two works, pavaljuni, by the late Emvin Cremona, meant for Eucharistic Congress Road, but which have been sidelined to a secondary street.

Also we have a set of 13 lighting stars which apparently have been dumped in a store; this behaviour is not typical of the Mosta people.

Let the young enthusiasts know that way back we had put up these stars for the Christmas season and won second prize, losing only to South Street in Valletta. 

I would not like to delve into the problem of skirmishes which occur occasionally and which cause some to look down on the village feasts. I have avoided the subject for a simple reason: where there are crowds these things can happen. And my impression is that due to the hard work of various parish priests, who are ever close to the people, things have improved considerably.

It seems to me that since gaining Independence, the Maltese have grown in appreciation of what can be called Maltese. Some time ago, a journalist friend of mine asked for my opinion, as a missionary, on the amount of money that is spent on village feasts all over Malta.

The implication was that this money could be better spent in favour of countries from the Third World. I politely answered that I have no doubt all those who contribute generously towards the village feast are among those who contribute so generously towards the missions. 

Fr John Caruana is a missionary in Brazil.

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