Photo by James N
For quite a while now, I have been considering the true nature of the Maltese feasts. On face value they exude religious customs and thoughtful prayer but in reality, people just turn up for the food and alcohol. There are a small number of people who genuinely attend feasts for the religious aspect but nowadays, they seem to have become an exercise in gluttony. When attending one myself, I was amazed at the number of beer cans and rubbish littered on the streets and the amount of people queuing up for unhealthy food. There were also many jewellery and toy stalls which made the whole area claustrophobic.
This is all extremely ironic when one goes back to his “religious doctrine” days to recall the passage in the bible in which Jesus became infuriated at merchants selling their products on the temple’s porch. If feasts were truly religious, more importance would be given to the actual ceremony not to the amount of money one can buy a statue or the highest price to carry it. The band coupled with all the fireworks going off every second for a whole hour make it an aural nightmare.
Are people doing this for their own personal gain or for a higher power? Its amazing to see people turn up to feasts and treat them as occasions to socialise and consume food and alcohol. Most of you might say that it’s a free country, but what aren;t we forgetting original intention of religious feasts? The amount of visual and audio pollution is large and bothersome to the general public. Fireworks disturb many residential areas and can also pose health risks. The Catherine wheels add to the traditional religious element but seem to prolong the feast to unnecessary times which may seem a bit extreme. To add fuel to the fire, many people who live in these areas and “celebrate” the feast take a day off on Monday extending the festivity to a total amount of 8 days.
One can also relate to the weeklong “Santa Maria” feast in which half the population of Malta decides to emigrate to Gozo for even a week. The roads in the surrounding localities are usually blocked off without warning due to the feast and many find this to be bothersome as different routes have to be taken which may seem to be a waste of time.
Feasts are also used by many as a means of exhibiting one’s political status and station in society. It is easy to recognise the many political figures shaking hands and prancing around the central square using the celebration as an opportunity to improve their public relations and to gain supporters. Shouldn’t we all see the irony in this? It is after all, blasphemy to the nearest degree.
Commercialisation has made this all acceptable and we don’t seem to question it. Somehow, most people still swear they are indeed religious but end up betting on religious items and disrespecting the fundamental values and views of the church. One must note that if underneath it all, our actions are oxymoronic, are we ultimately deluding ourselves? Some may say that these actions relate to ancestral traditions and most people enjoy the feasts but have they forgotten the original purpose of it all? One might call it corruption, linking itself to the many scandals within the Church recently, or even mismanagement, but ultimately, it reflects on the seriousness of the whole institution at hand.