Good Friday Procession in Gozo
I cannot believe it’s the Easter week already! I still remember Christmas like it was yesterday and we are already at the end of March! How time flies! But if you are in Malta or visiting this archipelago at this time of the year, it will be a very particular visit. You will enjoy it especially if you like to experience the local culture and customs.
As you may know the majority of Maltese population are Roman Catholics, so Good Friday and Easter in general are celebrated in a liturgical manner. You don’t have to be a religious person or a believer to appreciate these processions as they are all very unique and interesting to watch. It’s also pretty impressive to see the traditions of this extent to keep alive even in the modern world we are living in.
Easter in Malta is time of processions, pilgrimages, reflection and repentance. The preparations for Holy Week start 40 days before Easter, which is marked by Ash Wednesday and it’s the beginning of Lent. The Holy Week commences on the Friday prior to Good Friday, when a feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated. The tradition is that the Statue of Our Lady of Sorrow’s is carried out through the streets of Valletta (the most popular procession) and other villages all over the island.
Good Friday commemorates the Crucifixion of Jesus and it’s a day of mourning. In Malta it’s a national holiday as in the Christian calendar are the death and later the resurrection of Jesus the main events. On Good Friday you can expect to see across Maltese and Gozitan towns and villages numerous processions recreating Jesus’ suffering and his dead on the cross. Now you might be thinking why such a ‘sad’ day is called “Good Friday” but there are actually couple of explanations.
Some believe that Good Friday is a corruption of the word ‘God’, very similar to ‘Good Bye’ which comes from the phrase ‘God be with ye’. So Good Friday may derive from ‘God’s Friday’. Also most Christians perceive the day as ‘good’ because the main message of Easter is Jesus Christ’s victory over sin, death and the devil.
Easter processions are taken very seriously on the Maltese Islands. It takes months of planning and dedication. Hundreds of people are involved just in preparation of the Good Friday procession which is definitely the most significant from them all.
The very first Good Friday procession was held in 1913 and there were only three statues carried out from the church at that time. Over the years more statues were added and number of restoration works were done. All these photos are from a Good Friday procession in a small village of Nadur in Gozo. There are about 150 children, 150 biblical personalities and Roman soldiers take part in the procession.
The Good Friday procession in Nadur starts usually at 6pm just in from on the Basilica of St Peter & St Paul and it lasts for approximately two hours. As you can guess from the clothing of the spectators it was a pretty cold evening, however the majority of the participants in the processions were quite lightly dress and some even barefoot! Imagine that for two whole hours! What a dedication!
Some of the costumes are pretty dramatic. The most impressive ones by far would be the ones below, where the participants are barefoot, with one some basic bandages and dragging meters long and heavy chains. They also make a very particular noise that give the procession very dark atmosphere and I got goosbumbs all over! You have to be there to understand the feeling it gives you.
I would highly recommend to at least once in a lifetime witness these Maltese traditions and appreciate their dedication. As I already said you don’t have to be a believer. This is an experience of local traditions that you will definitely never forget.
I took these photos in 2016, while I was filming an Azure TV episode about the Good Friday procession.