Malta: Flying Jesus in Il-Birgu

We were fortunate enough to stay in Malta during Easter.
Malta being a very catholic country made this a truly unique experience in more ways than one.
It is typical for catholic countries to have religious processions during important holidays. In these processions people will sometimes dress up as perhaps roman soldiers, if the procession takes place in the beginning of Easter, but the central aspect of most processions is the carrying of religious symbols and figurines.
However, the Maltese people have taken it a step further!

If we rewind to Easter Sunday March 2016 you would fine us in Il-Birgu, one of the cities known to be part of the ‘three cities’ in Malta.
We had an idea of what was going to happen, but I tell you this, that did in NO WAY prepare us for what we were about to witness, no way.
We had gone there to witness a procession with a unique twist, which I won’t disclose now as I’m going for the utmost dramatic effect : P

Getting off the bus we followed the crowd to a plazza.
We’re not tall by any means, I clock in at 160 cm, so we immediately scanned the location for a perch and managed to wiggle ourselves to a viewing spot at a nearby plateau. From here we could overlook the entire sea of bodies, carnival stalls and the occasional escaping balloon. We could see it all!
We were ready!

So we waited.

I spent the time observing the locals at this day of festivities.
Much like when going to church (which I have a very minimal experience with) people were dressed in their utmost finest. There is something magical about seeing people in cocktail dresses and fancy buttoned shirts drinking beers out of plastic cups and buying their kids colourful balloons in the context of a religious event.
We also gathered that there must be a tradition for giving your kids Easter eggs at Easter Sunday, because many kids would wander proudly around with chocolate eggs the size of their heads in the already very warm sun.

As people were starting to increasingly resemble fishes in a barrel, we heard it!
The sound of trumpets! Soon after we saw the first flag.
Proceeding the procession was, to date, the most horrible marching band I have ever heard. I tell you they made the day absolutely perfect in a hilarious sort of way. Perhaps I have a weird sense of humor.
For your view pleasure, you can hear for yourself beneath:

Well we hadn’t come for music, we had come for Jesus!
(A sentence I think I have never been able to say before in my life!)
And boy did we get Jesus!

The marching band had served its purpose. It had carved a trench through the masses. However, it wasn’t enough. No, as a warning signal of what were to come, a man suddenly ran past us, waving his arms overhead like a penguin trying to fly.
Mere seconds later he appeared, Jesus!

This is a sight I’ll probably never tire of, I mean how could you?
Before us, carried by at least 15 huffing and puffing men, a giant statue of Jesus leaped through the crowd.
And when I say leaped I bloody well mean leaped! You see the unique thing about the procession in Il-Birgu is that people don’t carry around figurines. Oh no! They run, yes run, at full humanly-possible speed for at least a 100 meters with a huge ass statue of Jesus overhead!
And I tell you, it’s absolutely amazing!

Behold, flying Jesus!

Look at them go! It’s brilliant!

We followed the procession around for a while and were lucky enough to see them run two additional times and from different angles at that. I think my favorite is the last one as you can really see the men straining themselves and bobbing up and down running.
Though the second time wasn’t boring either. I was almost run over after all.

There’s a reason for this madness.
Malta has been occupied quite a few times and at some point the amount of time they could carry Jesus around during the procession was drastically limited by the current occupiers. This meant the procession would only reach a fraction of the city of Il-Birgu.
I bet the Maltese people pondered about how to fix this issue and I personally think their solution is brilliant.
A time limit you say? Well nobody says we have to be walking, it’s not a speed limit or anything right?
The result is that people started running with Jesus instead of walking. It’s sneaky really and you could obviously cover way more ground.

Of course there are no such limitations today, but luckily the tradition stuck and you can still see Jesus running around the streets of Il-Birgu come Easter Sunday and I honestly think that’s amazing.

I hope this can inspire some of you writers out there to include unique traditions and religious events in your stories to come.
It’s amazing what traditions can occur around the world, especially surrounding religion.

View more of photographs of the Procession by going to this post’s photo album.

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