Feeling Festive in Malta: Celebrating a Festa in the City of Bormla

When I first visited Malta nine years ago, my new Maltese friends told me about the islands’s beloved festas — days on which church parishes honor a patron saint in the most celebratory of fashions.

These feast days are replete with fireworks, food, parades, and elaborate decorations. Most festas are crammed into the summer months, and my maiden Maltese visit in November unfortunately didn’t coincide with any. My intense curiosity about festas was finally satisfied on December 8th of last year, when the city of Cospicua (known locally as Bormla) celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

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Happy Holi! Celebrating the Festival of Colors in Goa

If you were in India today, chances are that you would now be sporting rainbow hues from head to toe, for today is Holi, the Festival of Colors. Holi is a Hindu celebration that welcomes spring and its abundant colors and bids farewell to winter. Originally, Holi commemorated successful harvests.

As we prepared to take on the endless supply of vibrant tossed powders and sprayed colored waters this morning, we watched the playful mayhem on the street below our Panjim, Goa guesthouse. Like toy soldiers, children held ground with fluorescent plastic squirt guns and water balloons, awaiting vehicles and motorists at which they could toss their jewel-toned water and powder.

Open-topped trucks drove by, blasting festive Indian music with a Caribbean feel as teenagers and adults on-board cheered. Poof. A purple stream of powder flew onto the passing revelers painting them in an instant. The children were euphoric at this victory.

When we finally took to the street, armed with a plastic bag to shelter our cameras, we encountered a jubilant pack of merrymakers. Noticing our squeaky-clean clothing, the group parted, allowing us to pass untouched. We asked them to slather on some colored goodness. They obliged – swirling orange, red and yellow powders onto our faces. Despite the fact that they were gentle on us, we now felt like part of the club.

As we walked to a Punjabi restaurant for lunch, we saw revelers of all ages with hair that resembled powdered wigs. Locals shouted “Happy Holi.” Siesta-takers watched a cricket match, while a coffee-house employee channel surfed, briefly stopping at a Holi-themed Indian soap opera; the Bollywood-esque actor’s face was smothered with fuchsia war paint that was perfectly coordinated with his tunic. We wondered how some of the local diners had made it to the restaurant unscathed.

With the hot sun overhead we decided to stroll back to our charming home away from home, Alfonso’s Guesthouse. As statewide elections had just taken place days earlier, we were told that Holi’s tossing of the colors ended earlier this year (as officials were still busy tallying the votes). On our walk home, the streets were noticeably quiet. The scattered splotches of color on streets and sidewalks were the only evidence of the mischief that ensued just hours before.

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Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.