Maltese Easter Traditions

Easter is one of the best times to visit the island. It is a time of festivals, processions, passion plays and more.

Most towns and villages prepare for the Holy Week from 40 days before Easter. On Ash Wednesday the priest uses ash to mark peoples' foreheads with the sign of a cross, as a symbol of death and sorrow for sin. Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, adults fast and don't eat meats. Children don't eat sweets as sign of penance. Pots and pans are hung upside down as a symbol for fasting.

If you want to be part of this special ceremony, the Ash Wednesday Mass in St John's co-Cathedral in Valletta is open to the public. After evening mass, in many localities in Malta and Gozo, there is a procession with the statue of Christ. The biggest pilgrimage is in Senglea, one of the Three Cities, in the South of the island.

Ash Wednesday in Malta

Another important day is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. This feast is normally celebrated on the Friday before Good Friday. People walk, sing hymns and pray in religious processions behind the statue of our Lady of Sorrows. Traditionally, some of the participants walk barefoot or drag heavy chains tied to their feet. If you are interested in seeing this procession first hand, Valletta is an excellent place to go. The capital can easily be reached by ferry from IELS.

Our Lady of Sorrows in Malta

The Holy Week commences on Palm Sunday. All the parishes in Malta celebrate this occasion. Across Malta and Gozo, the faithful walk in a procession waving olive branches and crosses made of Palm leaves.

Easter Procession in Malta

On Maundy Thursday, the eve of Good Friday, the priest symbolically washes the feet of twelve people who represent the apostles.

There are many Last Supper exhibitions held across Malta and Gozo. They range from model representations of the Holy Supper to more elaborate rice and pasta 'paintings'. Traditionally, the food used in these displays is distributed among the needy of the parish. Many Maltese Catholics follow custom on Thursday night by visiting seven different churches. These exhibitions are worth a visit if you are in Malta during Holy Week.

The Last Supper in Gozo

Finally, there is a live re-enactment of The Last Supper in Gozo where actors will portray Jesus sharing his final meal with his Apostles before his crucifixion. The re-enactment takes place at Ta' Passi fields where the atmosphere and the natural surroundings, including the animals, take visitors back in time to The Last Supper.

There will also be a live kitchen where traditional Passover food will be prepared. This is held on Holy (Maundy) Thursday evening, 29th March 2018, from 8.30pm until 11.30pm and the following morning, Good Friday, 30th March 2018, from 9am until 12pm.

More information can be found here:
The IELS Leisure Team is always happy to help you with organising your trip to Gozo.

Good Friday is a day of mourning. No church bells are rung. Decorations are removed from churches and no mass is held though some people go to church to kiss the cross at the time Christ died and to say personal prayers. It is also a day of fasting. In the olden days many people fasted with bread and water only.

On Good Friday, in many villages and towns, statues are carried by 6 to 8 bearers dressed as biblical characters.

These statues represent a scene from the Passion of the Christ. It is a great honour to be a bearer and some parades even include horses.

Easter Sunday in Malta

Easter Sunday is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ and the atmosphere is completely different to that of Good Friday. The churches are open, a special mass is celebrated and the bells are rung.

Towns and villages celebrate with lively band marches and a short procession with the statue of the Risen Christ. This procession usually starts after the morning mass at around 10.00am.
After mass, it is a day the Maltese spend with their family. Easter Day is celebrated with a special lunch consisting of lamb, potatoes and vegetables, as well as the sweets such as chocolate eggs and Figolli; Malta's special Easter cakes. Easter eggs are dyed red to symbolise the blood of Christ and placed inside homes for protection.

As with other celebrations, such as Christmas or Carnival, Easter in Malta is also strongly associated with delicious traditional food. There are many dishes such as broad bean soup ("kusksu"), Hot Cross buns and carob sweets ("karamelli tal-ħarob").




During Lent, many Maltese fast or perform some sort of sacrifice. They tend to give up sweets for the duration of Lent. However Kwarezimal, Lenten biscuits, are allowed. These are delicious chewy, nutty, orange-flower flavoured local biscuits. If you are in Malta over Easter we would highly recommend tasting them.

The Qaghaq tal-Appostoli is a traditional loaf of bread eaten after the Seven Visits on Maundy Thursday. It is a ring-shaped loaf of bread made with honey and garnished with almonds and sesame seeds.

Figolli are the most popular traditional Easter food. They are baked at Easter and given to friends and family, especially children on Easter Sunday. Figolli are sweet almond Easter cakes covered in icing or chocolate. They are usually in Christian traditional shapes such as fish, but recently new forms have been added to the traditional shapes such as cars, lambs and butterflies.

You can find many delicious Maltese Easter Recipes here:

But if you don't feel like baking during this Easter we would recommend getting your sweet Easter treats from one of our personal favourite confectioneries: Caffe Cordina in Valletta or Busy Bee Café in Ta' Xbiex.

Easter Sunday is not only about food, here is another great event you shouldn't miss:
On the 31st of March the Inquisitor's Palace will open to the public on free admission. The Inquisitor's Palace is one of the very few surviving palaces of its kind. Gain free access to the recently reconstruction domestic kitchen area, the sophisticated piano nobile and private quarters, the Holy Office Tribunal, the prison complex and torture chamber!

Guided tours of the site will commence at 10.00hrs and at 14.00hrs. Opening hours: 09.00 - 17.00hrs (last admission at 16.30hrs)

Even if you're not the religious type or are a non-believer, most of the Maltese traditions that take place during the Easter period are generally interesting to watch or participate in for any. The combination of good food and sweets, local traditions, and inviting weather makes a holiday in Malta very inviting for anyone who wants to experience the true joy of Easter.

For more information on events during your stay you can always ask the IELS Leisure staff.