Holiday during Easter in Gozo

Easter on the island of Gozo is a true joy. It does not only coincide with the beautiful season of Spring but it is a time to experience the culture of an island whose roots are deeply embedded in faith and which have evolved into a mosaic of elaborate traditions and rituals over the centuries. Easter on the island of Gozo is a true joy especially if you’re going to stay at a Hotel.

The period before the feast of Easter, known as Lent, is associated with penance. For believers, it is a 40-day journey or preparation for the grand feast of Resurrection on Easter Sunday. In the Catholic tradition, Lent is a period of personal sacrifices, fasting and staying away from meat dishes. In times gone by, meat was considered a luxury and thus withholding meat dishes was part of the solemn rituals believers followed.  To this day, you will come across several dishes on the island of Gozo which are associated with the season of Lent.   Maybe one of the favourite dishes is the traditional stuffed artichokes. The first artichokes start becoming available at the vegetable market right on the onset of Lent and they are usually stuffed with a tasty mix of  parsely, garlic, olives, capers and breadcrumbs. It makes a great vegetarian dish!

Other dishes that are typical of the season,  include the Kusksu, a kind of green bean soup that includes tiny bead pasta and fresh Gozitan cheeselets; qassatat, a  pasty pocket stuffed with cheese and spinach and tuna pies.  On the sweet side, one can enjoy the Kwareżimal, the typical Lenten sweet that even its own name evolved from the Latin word quaresima meaning Lent.  You’ll also come across sweet and savoury bread rings known locally as the Apostles’ Ring.  And maybe you can ask for carob sweets produced from carob syrup that is known across the Mediterranean region for its healthy properties. These sweets are available at local gourmet stores all year round, but during Lent, they are sold at some stalls near churches or places where exhibitions are being held.   Easter cannot be celebrated in Gozo without the traditional Figolla, a sweet pastry that envelopes a layer of yet sweeter almond filling.  Figolli are baked in different shapes and sizes. Some of the traditional favourites are the ones in the shape of lambs, rabbits, mermaids, hearts and guitars!  Figolli are usually decorated with chocolate or coloured icing and come with an Easter Egg affixed on top.

When it comes to the essence of the season, the death and resurrection of Christ is best experienced not only during the various liturgical ceremonies and church services but also via the various pageants, processions, plays and exhibitions that nearly every village in Gozo organises.   From the deeply devotional procession of Our Lady of Sorrows, where many devotees follow the statue in the streets to the celebration of Palm Sunday and the Good Friday processions which include a string of rich statues representing different stations of the Cross, you’ll witness a facet of Gozo that is only visible during this time.  Many people participate in these processions some dressed up as Biblical characters or Roman soldiers in elaborate costumes and some in hooded dresses trudging heavy chains or crosses as an act of penance are truly gripping to witness.

Għammar Hill, opposite the shrine of Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu in Għarb, is also closely associated with this time of the year.   The steep uphill path is marked with marble statues of the Stations of the Cross and every year one can join the pilgrimage that makes its way up to the top at dusk carrying candles and torchlights.   The event can even captivate the attention of non-believers as the scenery from top of the hill is very suggestive.

Easter Sunday is all about joy and this is visible everywhere in Gozo.  After 40 days of Lent, it’s time for church bells to ring again.  Apart from the numerous processions with the statue of the risen Christ, it is a great time to visit Villa Rundle Gardens in Victoria for the official Gozo Egg Hunt!  The processions with the statue of the Risen Christ, most of which are held early in the morning are usually fascinating to witness as the bearers of the statue make the extra effort and sprint parts of the procession as part of the joyful expression. Easter lunch is an important date and most of the local restaurants will make an extra effort with the menu on that day, usually ending up the meal with traditional Figolla and chocolate Easter eggs.

Away from traditions, culture, food and musical concerts of the season, Easter in Gozo is a lot about ushering in the season of Spring with a hint of Summer!  The weather is usually distinctly warmer as Easter approaches.  As the countryside blooms, the island becomes a wonderful destination for travelers of all types. Hikers and ramblers can have days of wandering around the paths, cyclists can follow the roads to their hearts’ content and families can enjoy picnics at the beach under clear blue skies.  Some will even take their first dip of the season.

 

Ramla Beach Gozo

Ir-Ramla, or Ramla Beach, is one of Malta’s only sandy beaches. It is located in Xaghra at the base of a verdant, fertile valley and is known for its distinctive reddish-colored sand. Ramla is an excellent place for swimming, relaxing by the water with a good book or for an afternoon picnic. There is rarely a time when Ramla’s shore is not filled with people playing Frisbee, flying kites or spending time with family. Ramla Beach also has bathroom facilities, a snack bar and ice cream shop close by.

Calypso Cave – Gozo

According to Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, Odysseus was held captive by the nymph Calypso for seven years in a cave on the island of Ogygia. The story tells that she was so madly in love with Odysseus that the gods had to intervene and order her to release him so that he may return to his wife Penelope in Ithaca.

The story may be myth, but many believe that the island of Ogygia is actually Gozo, and that the cave in the story is an actual cave located in Xaghra, about 2.5 miles (3.9 km) northeast of Victoria. The cave itself is not open to visitors anymore, but still draws crowds due to its association with the legend of Calypso. From the entrance of the cave, visitors get a bird’s eye view of Ramla Beach.

 

Salt Pans – Gozo

The ancient Romans began the salt pans of Marsalforn over 2,000 years ago, and the process is still being done to this day. Sea salt is coarser than refined salt and is a staple in Mediterranean gastronomic traditions. Ironically, it is not considered to be as salty-tasting as its refined or iodized counterparts.

If there is one thing the Maltese do have, it’s an endless supply of sea salt, but it does not end up in your salt shaker by accident. Salt panning involves carving shallow niches into rock by the sea and pumping them regularly with seawater. The stagnant seawater is then left to evaporate in the sun. What gets left behind is the final product- rock salt. It is a natural process that yields a versatile cooking ingredient. The Marsalforn salt pans are a fascinating display of ancient ingenuity still being used today.

Easter weekend in Gozo

Gozo – Art, Faith and Tradition, Easter activities comes to a close this evening, following a programme of events that have been held both inside and outside the churches and all across the island.
These have included concerts of sacred music, processions, pageants and exhibitions of statues, visual arts exhibitions, and many activities for children.

Gozo Faith & Traditions

This April, Gozo will become a hub of activities in preparation for the Good Friday processions and pageants, which provide real life re-enactments of the life and passion of Christ.
The pealing of church bells on Easter Sunday on the 21st April heralds the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. An exuberant mode prevails in some localities as groups of bearers wearing the kunfratija, gloriously lift the statue of Christ along the streets to the sound of lively band marches. These celebrations intertwine with local life and traditions and offer the visitor an authentic experience of Gozo.

Festi

A summer trip to Gozo would not be complete without a visit to a village festa. These are held between the last weekend in May and mid-September.
Each town/village holds its annual feast dedicated to its Patron Saint. A typical ‘festa’ lasts three days or longer. The church and village are decorated with lights and bunting and the colourful festa statues of Saints stand outside the church. The main festa statue of the patron saint is paraded through the streets and local musicians provide extra support to the priest and choir in a special mass.

Gozitan Festas are not only religious in nature however and there is plenty of secular fun as well. Bands march through the streets of the village and fireworks light up the skies as crowds enjoy traditional as well as fast food from the many street stalls. Tourists are always welcome and joining a festa is a great way to get a real taste of local life.

May
Il-Munxar – Feast of St. Paul – last weekend in May. This festa kicks off the season with week-long celebrations of the shipwreck of St Paul on Malta in 60AD (as described in the bible).

June
L-Għasri – Feast of Christ the Saviour – includes horse racing along the street.

Għajnsielem – Feast of St. Anthony of Padua.

Il-Fontana – Feast of the Sacred Heart.

Ix-Xewkija – Feast of St. John the Baptist – on the Sunday before or after June 24. Includes not only marches but concerts by the local Prekursur brass band and horse racing on the streets.

In-Nadur – Feast of Saints Peter & Paul – on 29th June which is also a national holiday. Includes an agricultural and crafts show, horse race on the street and concerts the local Mnarja brass band.

July
L-Għarb – Feast of the Visit of Our Lady to St. Elizabeth – Includes not only marches but concerts by the local Viżitazzjoni brass band.

Ta’ Kercem – Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour – includes concerts as well as marches by the local San Girgor (St. Gregory) brass band.

Ir-Rabat – Feast of St. George – centred on St George’s Basilica just off the main square, this festa includes horse racing along Ir-Rabat (Victoria)’s main street and concerts by the local La Stella brass band. La Stella, officially called La Stella Philharmonic Society, is based in one of ir-Rabat (Victoria)’s two opera house/theatres, The Astra. This festa is one of two held in ir-Rabat (Victoria). The other is centred on the Cathedral and takes place on August 15.

Ta’ Sannat – Feast of St. Margaret the Martyr – includes concerts by the local St. Margerita (St. Margaret’s) brass band and horse racing on the street.

August
San Lawrenz – Feast of St. Laurence – San Lawrenz is the only village in Gozo to be named after its patron saint. The festa statue of the saint is a fine example made by Gallard et Fils of Marseilles and it arrived in San Lawrenz on 4th August 1895. The first feast was celebrated six days later and has been celebrated every year since, even at the height of the Second World War.

Il-Qala – Feast of St. Joseph – first Sunday of August. Includes not only marches but concerts by the local Ite ad Joseph brass band.

Ir-Rabat – Feast of St. Marija (St. Mary) – 15th August. Includes horse racing along the main street of the capital as well as the Agriculture and Industrial Show at the Villa Rundle. There are also concerts by the Leone brass band, officially called the Leone Philarmonic Society and based in the Aurora Theatre, one of ir-Rabat (Victoria)’s two opera houses-theatres. This is one of two festas in ir-Rabat (Victoria), the other is centred on the Basilica of St George and takes place in July.

Iż-Żebbuġ – Feast of St. Marija – on the first weekend following August 15. Includes not only marches but concerts by the local band Sta. Marija (St. Mary’s) Band as well as horse racing on the street.

Għajnsielem – Feast of Our Lady of Loreto – on the last Sunday of August. Includes not only marches but concerts by the local San Ġużepp (St. Joseph) brass band.

September
Ix-Xlendi – Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel – first Sunday in September. Apart from the marches and concerts, the festivities include the gostra, a diagonal pole along which competitors attempt to walk to reach the flag at the end and win the competition. Most slip off, of course and splash into the warm sea. There are also paddle-boat races and other water games too.

Ix-Xagħra – Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady (also known as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory) – on 8th September, which is also a national holiday known as Jum il-Vittorja (Victory Day). Includes not only marches but concerts by the local Victory brass band and horse racing along the street.

Ir-Rabat – Our Lady of Graces – first Sunday after 8th September.

Festival of Lights

When was the last time that you were truly awed? Make your way to Gozo and enjoy the crisp air as the sun sets and Ghar Ilma hill lights up in a spectacle of hundreds of flaming lanterns. The beauty of light like you have never experienced before. A unique moment to inspire you, against the beautiful backdrop of the Gozitan countryside. Drop in at the beautiful Santa Lucija village square and mingle with the locals, savouring local food and unique hospitality.

Victoria International Arts Festival

For five weeks every year in June/July, Victoria joins the festival cities of the world, with artistes and ensembles from all over the world combining to leave their mark on the soul of the island. That is precisely what the Festival in the heart of Victoria, blending drive, professional ethos and the typical Gozo penchant for laid-back charm, has come to signify for an ever-widening network of patrons and admirers hailing from top music centres all over the world down to the cultural-minded visitor and local music lover. Culture makes places distinctive, engendering pride in the local community. It also makes a practical contribution in terms of sustainability, providing employment, encouraging learning and inspiring people to adopt creative and active lifestyles.

“Undoubtedly, Victoria boasts of a community fully inspired to build two magnificent theatres that have brought to Gozo’s magic shores world renowned artistes from all over the world. This city has developed an irresistible passion for musical culture…the Victoria Arts Festival, under the direction of Joseph Vella, is launched in the middle of June with its glittering musical choices.” The Times of Malta (That Super City of Culture, April 2014)

The Agriculture and Industrial Show

The Agriculture and Industrial Show (known also as Il-Wirja ta’ Santa Marija) has been organized by the Gozo Agricultural, Industrial and Cultural Society since 1855. Held annually on the 14th and 15th of August, it is a showcase for local crafts, agricultural products and live animals.
It is held in the Villa Rundle public gardens in Ir-Rabat , which has recently undergone extensive refurbishment.

The show, visited each year by over 10,000 people enjoying more than 4000 exhibits, also has a competitive element. Trophies and cash prizes are awarded by expert judges in 13 categories ranging from animals (including horses, goats, cows, sheep and dogs), to food products and artisan crafts which the show helps to keep alive. The awards ceremony is held on  15th August in the presence of His Excellency The President of Malta.