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Articles in this blog may be ESE news, academics pieces written by our team or events in Malta of general interest.

Holy Week (Il-Gimgha Mqaddsa /ɪlʤɪmʌmʔʌtsʌ/) in Malta

The celebrations, ceremonies and traditions which take place during Holy Week in Malta are determined by the Roman Catholic traditions. Catholics commemorate the Passion of Jesus Christ and celebrate His victory over death through His resurrection, thus being the most important event in the Roman Catholic calendar.

To get a good feel for and understand these age old traditions, events and ceremonies you must immerse yourself in the atmosphere. Here are some ideas.

WirjaOne tradition is the Wirja /wɪrjʌ/ (sometimes signposted by Golgota /gɒlgɒtʌ/), an exhibition of statues depicting the last supper and the events which took place around it.

Often these exhibitions are created by artisan enthusiasts of the genre and are well worth a visit. They are found all over the island.

(Photo: Wirja Exhibition by



The Easter season starts with Ash Wednesday (Ras ir-Randan /rɑ:sɪrʌndɑ:n/), the day after Shrove Tuesday, this is the first day of Lent (Randan / ɪrʌndɑ:n/) which is a period of 40 days during which many Roman Catholics fast.

Holy week, the last week of Lent, is essentially made up of:

Maundy Thursday (Hamis ix-Xirka  /hʌmi:sɪʃɪrkʌ/) – on this day the last church service before Easter is held. During this service the last supper is remembered and re-enacted.


Good Friday ProcessionGood Friday (il-Gimgha l-Kbira /ɪlʤɪmʌlkbi:rʌ/) – Catholics visit and pray in seven churches. The chancel is stripped bare and the church is solemnly decorated in red and purple. Spectacular processions re-enacting the ways of the cross in many villages such as Valletta, Mosta and Qormi take place and at 15:00 hrs there is the adoration of the cross in many churches. Catholics typically observe fasting rules on this day which include no consumption of meat or treats and no eating or drinking in between meals.

Good Friday ProcessionGood Friday Procession
(Photos: Good Friday Procession by


Holy Saturday (Sibt il-Ghid /sɪptɪlaɪt/) – This is a day of vigil as Catholics lay in wait for Easter Sunday. The chancels remain bare until dusk when the first Easter service takes place.

Easter Sunday (L-Ghid il-Kbir /laɪtɪlkbi:r/) – Easter day. Services resume in the churches. In some villages for instance, Bormla, Qormi and Mosta there is a short procession (the last bit of which is a run) of the Risen Christ.


Heart FigollaEaster Sunday is also the day when traditionally one can start eating sweets, biscuits and cakes again. Like many other countries, Malta too has traditional sweets and Figolli (large biscuit figures filled with marzipan) are one of them. This is a recipe for you to try.

There are many versions, this is the original recipe my grandmother used.


For the biscuit you will need:

  • 450 g self-raising flour
  • 225 g sugar
  • 225 g butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • milk (to bind)
For the marzipan you will need:

  • 225 g pure ground almonds
  • 115 g sugar
  • 1 tsp almond essence


The biscuit: Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Rub the butter into the flour until you reach breadcrumb consistency. Beat the eggs well and combine with the sugar then add to the flour and butter mixture.  Add the other ingredients and work into the dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and let it rest for at least half an hour in the fridge.
Roll out the dough into 2 cm thickness and cut into shapes using moulds. You will need 2 identical shapes. The most commonly used shapes are ducks, baskets, hearts, fish, lambs, bunnies and eggs.


The marzipan: Mix the sugar and the water over heat and bring to the boil. Add the almond essence. When the mixture threads, add the ground almonds, stir well over the heat and when combined remove and stand it to cool.
When cool spread the marzipan carefully on one of the identical shapes of dough and cover with the other shape pressing lightly. Place on a greased and floured baking tray and bake until golden.
Stand it to cool. When cool decorate with coloured icing to match the shape.

All that is left is to enjoy it! Leave us a comment and let us know how they turned out and send us the pictures.


Focus on Fluency

  • artisan (n) – a skilled person who makes things by hand
  • genre (n) – a category, could be of music, literature, film, art etc.
  • fast (v) – to not eat or drink before surgery or for religious purposes
  • re-enact (v) – to act out a past event, usually historical events
  • chancel (n) – the part of a church near the altar
  • bare (adj) – without, uncovered
  • solemnly (adv) – serious, without humour
  • procession (n) – people move slowly and in order as part of a ceremony or feast
  • the way of the cross – the journey of Jesus up to His crucifixion
  • consumption (n) – eating or drinking
  • treat (n) – something which gives you pleasure like food or entertainment
  • vigil (n) – (in religion) the eve of a feast or holy day
  • lie in wait (phr.v) – to wait
  • dusk (n) – the darker time of sunset (opposite of dawn, the first appearance of light at sunrise)
  • bind (v) – solid and liquid come together in one mass in baking
  • ground (adj) – reduced to fine particles, like a powder through grinding, crushing or mincing
  • rub (v) – (in baking) to mix ingredients using one’s fingers
  • consistency (n) – the physical nature of a substance such as thick, runny, lumpy, smooth etc.
  • cling film (n) – thin plastic used to wrap food to keep it fresh
  • mould (n) – a container in the shape of something
  • thread (adj) – in a continuous thin line
  • stand to cool – (in baking) leave something to cool down before doing anything with it
  • greased (adj) – (in baking) something which has had fat or oil applied to it to avoid sticking
  • turn out (phr. v) – the end result



Michela Formosa with her family Author: Michela Formosa

About the Author:  Michela Formosa has been the Director of Studies at ESE since 2009 and has been active in the industry for the past 18 years both as a teacher and a teacher trainer. In addition, she was a speaker at the ELT Conferences in Malta as well as the Eaquals Conference in Malaga in 2015. In October 2015, Michela received the Inspiring ELT Professional Award 2015 at the 4th Malta ELT Conference.

About this blog

Articles in this blog may be ESE news, academics pieces written by our team or events in Malta of general interest.  Please feel free to write to us with any comments, suggestions or any articles you may have written and would like to share with us and our students.