Covid-19 has left many a festa enthusiast around the island in a state of disappointment as our traditional summer Maltese feasts were cancelled earlier this year.
Since people cannot currently gather in groups larger than 6, it would not be possible for feast celebrations to continue, given the current situation.
We caught up with Rodney Buhagiar, Secretary for the Committee of the Feast of Birkirkara, to get a feel of how all those who live for the village feast each year have been affected by our current situation.
“Like a lot of feast enthusiasts, this was a nightmare I never wished to experience. Personally, I was expecting something of the like when the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Malta.
“I was hoping this would be reversed soon enough to celebrate all the Maltese Feasts. I am mentioning this because feast enthusiasts like myself are always looking forward for that magical summer week where we can celebrate our patron saint together.”
But it’s not just a matter of missing a celebration for a year. The people behind the feast celebrations had already started putting work into what would have been this year’s festa, before the pandemic hit.
“A Maltese feast means a full year’s worth of voluntary work from all the feast enthusiasts and volunteers. Everyone must keep in mind that in Malta, a successful feast requires a lot of time, work and energy by the many people who work behind the scenes and who dedicate almost their lives in order to bring out the very best of a festa.
“In my hometown, we had been preparing as usual by organising fundraising activities and the necessary meetings between all the groups that participate in the organisation of our feast in order to make it complete. Apart from this, we – like all the other villages – were restoring some of our feast decorations and working on new ones.
“For sure, like all my hometown enthusiasts and people of Birkirkara, we are going to miss the procession with our masterpiece titular statue of Saint Helen. I wish I could just close my eyes and find myself during the procession of the 3rd of May of next year, so we can all enjoy the procession of Saint Helena’s statue during the feast dedicated to the finding of the holy cross of our Christ.”
So, will we be celebrating the feast in any possible way this year?
“In my opinion, yes we should celebrate, although in a very restricted way and as instructed by the health authorities. Although the feasts will not be celebrated in the normal manner, we should still celebrate, because we believe in our patron saints. We should keep in mind praying is something nice, even if times are changing.”
And his message applies to everyone. We should try to help other people as much as possible. After all, we are in this difficult time for everyone and we are in this together. At this point, he explains, we have to pull one rope and try to get back as sense of normality as soon as we possibly could.
“Keep safe and healthy, so that once this is over, we continue organising our traditional Maltese festas as best we know and prepare our hometowns for a massive feast in the honour of our patron saint.
“Let’s work hand in hand to keep festas alive, because after all this is the Maltese tradition which forms part of our beautiful culture and this is what makes us Maltese.”