Throngs of people milled about to the strains of rousing music blaring through loudspeakers, and the atmosphere in Zebbug Malta pulsated with anticipation. Bright-eyed toddlers sat atop their fathers’ shoulders; gray-haired women leaned on elbows at their windows; extended families filled wrought-iron balconies.
Teenage boys with baseball caps askew chatted up young women in leather jackets and Jackie O sunglasses; and middle-aged men stood off in the shadows with small cups of something strong.
A crowd spilled from the door of a social club onto the sidewalk, where rows of folding chairs were filled to capacity. Officious-looking men in suits looked at their watches and paced inside space marked off with yellow police tape.
And then, finally, the first of a long line of elaborately-costumed participants appeared and the parade began to wind its way through the streets of Zebbug Malta. All of us who had been eagerly awaiting this moment were not disappointed. Lavish headdresses, prancing horses, flowing robes, regal bearings and proud faces made for one of the most dramatic and powerful processions I had ever witnessed.
Good Friday is commemorated annually in Zebbug with a unique exhibition which has been a Maltese tradition for many years. Despite being only 17 miles by 9 miles, Malta has more than 365 Catholic churches—the majority of the country’s population practices that faith and it’s said that four out of five Maltese regularly attend Mass.