Maltese - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. The principal religion of the Maltese is Roman Catholicism. The Maltese are devout: most men and women attend mass at least once a week. The religious practitioners are the diocesan and regular clergy. Among Roman Catholics, Malta has the highest ratio of priests to laypeople in the world.

The Maltese celebrate the liturgical calendar with great enthusiasm and pomp. Intricate and richly adorned outdoor processions form part of many rituals. For centuries, these have provided the principal entertainment of the population. The most devoutly celebrated rituals are those that take place during Holy Week (Our Lady of Sorrows, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter). In addition, each parish annually celebrates its patron saint with sacred rituals, joyous outdoor band marches, wild demonstrations, and lavish displays of fireworks, many of which are made by parishioners. Some parishes celebrate two saints in this fashion, thereby generating fierce rivalry.

Arts. There is a rich tradition of decorative art. There are many part-time sculptors and painters. Traditional extemporaneous competitive singing ( ghana ), which had all but disappeared thirty years ago, is making a modest comeback.

Medicine. Western medicine has been universally practiced in Malta for centuries.

Death and Afterlife. The Maltese accept death and, in accord with Roman Catholic teaching regarding afterlife, great fear is associated with it. Funerals are held the day after death. Graves are tended and the dead are celebrated annually on All Souls' Day, 1 November. It is widely believed that the spirits of the dead ( wahxi ) return to haunt the living if the religious arrangements for the repose of their souls have not been faithfully carried out.

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