This is a list of weird things which only seem to happen in Malta. Okay, I’m sure some of them are not exactly unique to the island, but I can honestly say that in all my travels I have only ever seen these particular events here in Malta.
CC image courtesy of Groundhopping Merseburg on flickr
1. Carcade after elections: The notion of a serene and modest acceptance of electoral victory is not a popular one on the island of Malta, where local battles reach white-hot intensity. Instead, the phenomenon of the ‘carcade’ has evolved, whereby the supporters of the winning side pile into their cars, bedecked in the colours and symbols of their political party, and drive up and down the streets of the town blaring horns and yelling at passers-by. Meanwhile the losers gnash their teeth and stay indoors for the day.
2. Running up a greasy pole: Gostra is the name given to this entertaining tradition, whereby enthusiastic volunteers try to sprint up a 65 foot greasy pole in order to capture the flag at the end of it. Not an easy feat, as you may well imagine, but fortunately the flagpole is angled out over the sea rather than off the side of a building, ensuring that the unsuccessful participants generally suffer no worse a fate than a dunking.
3. Burning doors: Sometimes I wonder if I exaggerate in my mind the amount of times that I’ve seen news reports of people’s front doors being set alight. I don’t know why it happens – although safe to assume that a pretty nasty dispute of some sort is to blame – but I’ve never heard of such a thing happening anywhere else.
4. Spring bird hunting: Somewhat controversially, Malta has refused to buckle to EU demands to stop shooting at breeding migratory birds in springtime. Even a referendum in April 2015 ended with a narrow victory for the hunters, (celebrated with vociferous khaki carcades – naturally), much to the dismay of environmentalists across Europe.
CC image courtesy of Kurjuz on flickr
5. Running with statue of Christ at Easter: Just about every feast and religious holiday features hardy volunteers carrying statues of saints through the village streets. Easter Sunday takes things up a notch, as the bearers of the Risen Christ end the procession with a full pelt sprint back to the Church.
6. Giant elaborate nativity scenes: Another religious tradition, this time involving the creation of massive and elaborate dioramas with the nativity scene at the centre, which are known as ‘presepju’.
7. Village festas: A local Maltese festa brings the village out in force, banda club bands blasting out tunes while the local firework club lights up the sky in an attempt to make the neighbouring village green with envy. Fuelled by the desire to out-do their local rivals, festas just keep getting bigger and louder every year.
CC image courtesy: of john haslam on flickr
8. Cat food on the street: There are a lot of cats in Malta. They pretty much have free run of the island, which is not great if you suffer from ailurophobia (yes, of course I had to google that) but has the not inconsiderate consolation of keeping the local population of rats and mice at bay. But the precious felines don’t have to rely on rodent prey for sustenance, as locals will dump piles of cat food on the streets at random locations to keep the cat population thriving.
9. Bottles of water outside houses: One of the down-sides of having cats (and occasional dogs) roaming the streets at will is the waste products after they have had their fill of available cat food. For some reason Maltese people believe that the reflections of glass bottles of water in the sun dissuade the animals from making a mess outside their front doors, which is why you will see these bottles positioned in front of houses in the more traditional back streets.
CC image courtesy of Darren Barefoot on flickr
10. Fireworks without the fire: While lolling on the beach in summer time, your reverie may be abruptly disturbed by a deafening explosion. Don’t worry, it’s not a ground to air missile or an errant hand grenade, it’s just the (quite unpopular) tradition of the ‘petard’, the incredibly noisy rocket fired off during festa time in Malta. While to the casual observer this may seem a bewildering pointless and annoying tradition, it has its adherents, and despite various attempts to get them banned it seems that the petards will keep on frightening sunbathers for the foreseeable future.