The Malta Independent 21 September 2019, Saturday

Feasts, patron stains and numbing victories

Victor Calleja Sunday, 8 September 2019, 09:38 Last update: about 14 days ago

Today is a special feast. The apex of feasts because it is the feast of victory—commemorating so many victories in our Maltese calendar that few of us can remember them all.

Today is also the feast which closes the festa season. I am quite a lover of anything that makes noise, adds colour, involves dancing and fun or is a celebration of food and drink. I also love anything that puts more oomph into our national psyche.

So am I complaining that the festa season is over? Do I wish it to go on forever—senseless petards and all? Not at all. I am feasting the ending—and wouldn’t mind seeing the end of festi forever. Or at least the end of them as they are now. They cause mayhem in the town or village for a few days or weeks. And there is unnecessary idiocy by those organising them.

Let’s start with the obvious omission. I think, or always thought, that festi are a religious commemoration. Consider a list of things that festi are all about. On a scale of one to a hundred where would God, His Son, or Our Lady feature? Or any of the feted saints and angels or archangels?

Maybe the religious element—the solemn—would score one out of a hundred. If we’re lucky. Am I complaining because I want them to be very religious? Have I turned into a fundamentalist nutter?

Not for a minute.  I would much prefer festi to be declared non-religious. Please take the saintliness out of them to make me feel less guilty when I swear by all the saints in heaven when fireworks and petards go off after midnight.

I find it hard to understand how anything done in the name of Christianity allows the height of ungodliness and utter selfishness when pedestals for saints and angels are erected on pavements. And poles for bandalori (ornamental flags) make manoeuvring a hazard for pedestrians.

People, especially those in wheelchairs, with buggies, shopping baskets, or who are infirm or old, often have no choice but to risk life and limb and walk in the road to avoid these obstacles.  

For the sake of our festi we also endure roads closed on weekends—not silly minor roads of course. Our saints deserve somewhere more important than anything minor. We close main roads including George Borg Olivier Street in St Julian’s.

Should fireworks be banned? Not at all—just as festi should not be. But sanity should prevail and we should be less outlandish.

If anyone claims that some people prefer them as they are now, they need to remember that people also prefer not going to work. People love getting drunk and eating more doughnuts than is good for them, so should they be told oh great that’s super good for you and your health.

We can’t have people spending those idiotic amounts on feasts and fighting for the right to carry statues of saints around. Or at least, if it is still done, then the church and the priests responsible for the festi should disassociate themselves and not allow religious statues to be carried around as part of this pagan charade. Call it pagan. Call it unmitigated hedonistic living but do not add the religious to it.

Malta needs festi and good luck to us all in continuing to honour our heroes or idols. But this is not all we have or are—I like to think that Malta is a bit more than this.

When Valletta officially started its period as European Capital of Culture, the Prime Minister announced that we would have a terrific festa lasting a whole year.

But a festa is as symbolic of Malta and anything Maltese as pastizzi are our best offering to the world of gastronomy.

Pastizzi are good but not all we have—and for our health and wellbeing should be indulged in as little as possible. Festas, like pastizzi, should never be representative of what we truly are or aspire to be. Or they become a stain on our own existence.

Whatever your name is, whenever you celebrate your feast, I wish you all a happy Sunday. May it be as victorious as possible.

 

Correction

Sometimes enthusiasm blinds us. In my haste to write about the sorry state of MUŻA, ‘When fairy tales go wrong’, I made a series of accusations mainly directed at the authorities.

However, I seem to have singled out the man who was given the task of turning the Auberge d’Italie into a museum. The article could be interpreted as stating that he— and only he—was responsible for the debacle.

I have found out that the man in question had in fact resigned as MUŻA’s project leader before its opening on 14 December 2018. I am sure he strove to reach high standards of professionality.

It would be interesting to hear from the authorities responsible why the project leader resigned at such a crucial time. Was he aware that not all was well with the project as he had planned it?

The horror of MUŻA and whoever is to blame for its problems and lack of transparency is still with us. That was the main gist of the article and this I still stand by, while challenging the minister concerned to come clean and clarify the situation.

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