Maltese Traditions – Il-Quccija

Malta is a small island, and yet its multi-cultural history cannot be denied, since throughout the years it was conquered and influenced by so many civilizations. The Normans, the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Turks, the Aragonese (Spanish), the French, and the English, all left their footprints in Maltese culture and traditions, and this mix makes up the unique Maltese habits and customs we know at present.

Il-Quċċija, which could be roughly translated as ‘the choosing’ or ‘the choice’ is one of the ancient old traditions dating back to the 18th century, which is still predominantly popular today. A year after a baby is born, its parents organize a party and invite all the family members and close friends for the gathering. After having eaten traditional Maltese party food, drunk a drink or two and chatted to their heart’s content, the parents prepare a table, basket, or section of the room for the Quċċija. The aim of the Quċċija is to determine or try to prophesy which profession or career the child would have later on in life, depending on which object he or she would pick up from all those offered in the pile.

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This entails collecting and setting out many different items, all reflecting or relating to a particular profession, career or aspect of life. For example, a calculator denotes that the child will become a mathematician, a rosary that he would become a priest, a pen that he would be a writer and a book that he would be learned and wise.

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(photo: Clare Galea-Warrington – https://cgwarr.wordpress.com)

In the past, different items would be set forth for the child to pick up, depending on his or her gender. If the child was a girl, most often the parents prepared a dish or table containing a pair of scissors, meaning that the girl would become a seamstress, cooking items, a ribbon, which if picked, would mean that the girl would be a beauty, corn which denoted fertility, or an egg which used to signify that the girl would have a big and prosperous home. If the child was a boy, the items would reflect totally different professions. A stethoscope would definitely be one of the items, in the hope that the boy would grow up to be a doctor, if he grabbed an inkstand it would mean that he was going to sit for the bar and become either a lawyer or a magistrate, while if he touched a geometry instrument it would mean that he would become an architect or engineer.

Today, the tradition has changed to reflect the society we are currently living in. Careers and professions are no longer subject to one’s gender, therefore usually the same items are offered to the child at the ceremony, be they male or female. The items themselves too have evolved, in reflection of today’s technological aspect. A baby might therefore grab a computer mouse, pointing at a career in I.T, or a credit card, pointing either towards a banking career or at the promise of future wealth.

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(photo: Clare Galea-Warrington – https://cgwarr.wordpress.com)

In the end, there is really no strict list of items which must be presented, and parents tend to let the baby crawl around everyday things which are to be normally found around the household. The object the child touches first, tradition holds, will be a dominant aspect in his or her life.

This small ceremony, apart from being held in the Maltese islands, is also believed to be something of a custom in some remote parts of Sicily, Italy, and Greece.

This article was published on LivingInMalta.com – to read the whole article please go here

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The History of the Maltese Carnival

Carnival in Malta has a long history. The word itself originates from the Italian phrase ‘carne vale’, which means ‘meat is allowed’, since Carnival itself is usually celebrated before the start of Lent, during which meat consumption was not permitted by the Catholic church.photo-by-photocity-3-copy-1100x616

Although the origins of Carnival themselves have pagan roots, tracing back to the follies of the Roman Saturnalia and beyond, we first find actual traces of it in the Maltese islands as of the 1400s, as records were found at the general hospital which indicate that patients were given special meals for this festivity. Food and drink in fact are an important aspect of Carnival, as is the wearing of masks and costumes, signifying the suspension of the normal order of things where social class was all-defining. During Carnival, everyone could make merry. It was a time for jokes, laughter and pranks.

Carnival festivities increased during the time of the Order of Saint John, and the traditional ‘parata’, the sword-dance marking the victory of the Maltese and the Knights against the Turks during the siege of 1565, was introduced. The ‘kukkanja’ was also introduced at this time, this was a sort of game whereby all sorts of food and sweets were tied to a tree-trunk, and the general public was allowed to run and climb the trunk to pick items of food as presents.

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Carnival started to decline during the 19th century when the British governed the islands, as it was not part of British culture, however it still managed to survive. ‘Veljuni’ or masked balls were held in major theaters around Valletta, and even the British governor used to take part in the revelry. When Malta was granted the Constitution in 1921, Carnival evolved even further. Since 1926, outdoor Carnival festivities started being organised in Valletta by special committee. Carnival started to include a défilé of floats, carts and cabs featuring imaginary colorful figures, manned by young people in costume who would blow whistles, throw colored confetti, sound horns and jeer at the crowd while wearing beautifully crafted costumes. Shops or organisations sponsored these floats and they used the event also as an advertisement for their products. In fact, carnival boosts business since street hawkers, vendors and shopkeepers, not to mention bakers, start to plan for it well in advance.

Up to 1974, a part of Valletta’s main square was fenced to create an enclosure which offered space for dancing. Later, the enclosure was relocated to Freedom Square, however when this was closed for the building of Parliament, the enclosure was taken back to Saint George Square.

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Many people could be seen masquerading through the streets as of pre-war days. Some dressed up as ghosts, demons, clowns and fairies, while others simply wore masks. The Maltese Carnival always contained an element of political satire. Grotesquely costume masquers, not to mention floats or ‘karrijiet’ which derided and caricatured particular events and prominent figures, were and are plentiful during this time.

This article was published on LivingInMalta.com – a complete version of it can be found here.

PERSONAL – December Ups and Downs

This has been one roller-coaster of a month. Plenty of highs and lows. So, in a nutshell:

During the first week of December, me and my boyfriend went to Sicily for a short 4-day break. You can read the first part of how that went here, but I’ve still got to continue writing about the rest of the trip. You might ask yourself – why is she taking this long to write about a mere 4-day long trip? The point is, I love travelling – I am simply enchanted by the plethora of emotions, new thoughts and ways of perceiving the world which open up whenever I set foot in a country different from my own, with ‘exotic’ mentalities, colors, history and trends, SO I actually don’t find it that easy to describe it all when I come back, because there is just SO MUCH TO SAY! In fact, if you look through my past posts, you’ll realize that I’ve never actually sat down and documented each and every one of the places I’ve traveled to – simply because there are so many of them. However I told myself I’d make an attempt with this 4-day Sicily trip just to see how it would go. Anyhow, there you have it, still to be continued. And don’t worry, it WILL be, all in its own good time.

Got sidetracked there. Sorry.

On our last day in Sicily, I woke up suffering from some serious back-pain. Sciatica to be precise. The pain extended down to my left leg and I could hardly walk. Needless to be said, the last day was the climax of our trip, as we had planned on going for a jeep-trip up Mount Etna… you think I flunked that? AS IF! I still went. Hopping and wincing and dragging my sorry carcass up the whole mountain. And boy, was I glad I did!

More of that in future posts relating to the actual holiday.

We came back on the 12th. Tuesday 13th was a local Public Holiday so I didn’t have to go to work, and spent the whole day in bed resting and hoping my back would get better. It didn’t. On Wednesday, I went to the doctors’ who gave me pills, painkillers, and the advice to get MORE rest. So, that was the second week of December – which I spent in bed sleeping off my pills.

Luckily for me, the pain retreated, and I was okeyish for the weekend. This was important since my birthday was on Saturday 17th, and I knew that my boyfriend had planned the whole weekend with events for me. That is what we do – I plan stuff for his birthday and he plans stuff for mine. We spent some days meeting friends and family, and I really enjoyed that. Kudos luv! Not to mention that one of the pressies I received is a nice voucher from Ryanair to be redeemed by November 2017! Yay!

On Monday I felt a bit better and so went back to work, taking a large cake with me for my colleagues in celebration of my birthday. The cake was in fact so large, that we are still eating from it (we are a small department). And today is the 27th! During the third week of December we also had our ‘official’ Xmas party at work. The food, I admit, wasn’t anything spectacular, HOWEVER I did make up for it with alcohol consumption… enough said. Unfortunately this also meant that I was too tipsy and suffering from a hangover to actually do my Yule ritual. Ah well, I’m sure the Gods didn’t mind all that much since I celebrated with libation anyways.

On the 24th I cooked and slaved the whole day to prepare an enormous family dinner. Family members came late, and I was quite angry about that, but it was ok in the end and the food was a huge success. We still have our fridge packed with delicious left-overs. On the 25th we ate an enormous Indian buffet, after which Aunt Flo came to visit, and actually floored me. I had to stay home and rest to cope with that, so I missed another family gathering in the evening.

I’m so so tired of eating… AND YES my weight has gone up again! Frankly after noticing the first 3 kilos, I stayed away altogether from the bathroom scales… they scare me.

January will come soon enough, and then it will be time to face the music all right!

 

Have my Friends Forgotten Me?

Lately, it feels as if I have forgotten how to talk to people.

2015 was an enormously hectic and stressful year (though joyful too). I focused most of my time on my relationship with my boyfriend, on buying property and then later on refurbishing and moving into said property.

Now, in 2016, I suddenly realize that while my life was evolving and going forward in leaps and bounds, in a certain way, I also lost another part of it – the social part.

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As happens to many people when in a stable relationship, slowly but inexorably, most of my friends seem to have faded away from my life, becoming mere shady beings in the corner of my memory. I admit, yes, there were many invitations I turned down. Many girls nights out which I couldn’t go to. Many rain checks on my part. Many tired evenings when I simply did not have the will or the energy to dress up, put on make up and heels, and go dancing and drinking for some 5 or 6 hours. Which is the reason, perhaps, why so many people slowly disappeared from my life.

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These were mostly the fun-buddies – those many friends and acquaintances you have fun with during weekends. The drinking-buddies, dance-partners, funny friends I got drunk with in the small hours of the morning after having written fire and thunder all over the dance-floor.

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I missed out on all of this in 2015, simply because my energy, my time and my money were invested into something else. Which is why, at this moment in time, when I am finally taking a deep breath and looking around me, I am realizing that I am (almost) alone friends-wise.

Not all my friends have disappeared, but those with whom I am daily (or weekly) in contact, are mainly those who are in my same situation in life – that is, couples, people who are shacking up and buying a house together, or young parents.

Is this good, or is this bad? I miss those fun times, however at this point I think that to a certain extent they will never come again.
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Why? Because I’d rather not spend 50 euros (to say the least) on alcohol each evening and invest that money on my house, or save it up for travelling instead. Also because, I freely admit, many of these ‘friends’ I used to have so many good times with were either opportunists, hypocrites, people who wanted to get in my pants, or simply people who were there when everything was nice and happy, but disappeared whenever there was a problem – which I can well do without.

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So, part of me wants to go back and find those ‘friends’ I used to have. Go back to drinking and carousing with no limits. And another part of me wants to just go forward and find new friends who, instead of wasting money getting drunk and partying, would be content to enjoy my company during a DVD night or a picnic, and then later on, have enough money saved up to go on an extended holiday to Scotland or Hong Kong.

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What do you think? Am I getting old before my time, or is this just common sense?

Beloved Boyfriend’s Birthday Weekend

Last Saturday was my bf’s birthday. It’s the third one we’ve celebrated togather so far, and it was the big 30, so it actually made quite a visible dent (so to speak).

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I had been maneuvering and negotiating dates and places with our friends for more than a month (5 weeks to be precise), and I finally got what I set out to do. A gem-packed weekend full of diverse activities, and yet still having some ‘private time’ for ourselves.

Now there’s this one thing we and our friends do when there’s a birthday looming up. We never tell the birthday boy or girl that we are meeting or where we are going. We genuinely try to ‘surprise’ them, even though at this point, after years of asking the bday person if they want to ‘go out for a drink’ in a certain area right before, on the day of, or after their birthday, has become a sort of tradition which they can see right through. However it is kind of a long-standing joke, so we still do it.

So, on Friday evening, I asked my love if he felt like ‘going out for a drink’ somewhere in Rabat. With a glint in his eye, he said ‘sure’ and out we went. While we were trying to find parking, we ‘accidentally’ stumbled on two of our friends searching for parking in the same area as well. ‘What a coincidence!’ I exclaimed smiling, ‘Wow, I wonder what they are doing here!’ he replied. Lol.

We found parking somewhere a bit far from where our friends had left their car, so we lost them for a time. I walked towards the restaurant I had booked two weeks before, and as we arrived in front of the entrance asked him if he ‘felt like’ popping in for a drink. ‘Bit weird to pop in for a drink in a Chinese restaurant isn’t it?’, he remarked with a laugh. We went in and lo and behold, there were our friends! It’s obvious that he saw it coming, but he enjoyed it anyways. It was a very relaxing evening and at the end we even finally told our friends something which we had been hinting at, but never actually confirmed – that is, that we have bought a house togather. They were really thrilled for us 🙂

On Saturday morning, which was my bf’s actual birthday date, I took him out for a birthday brunch in a restaurant on the beach, called ‘Apple’s Eye’. I really love that place, the day was sunny, yet terribly windy. It was so windy in fact that my bf’s toast literally blew off the table! It was so funny! We took some photos and afterwards went for a stroll on the beach. There were some people sunbathing but no one was swimming. I guess the water is still too cold.

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In the afternoon, we took a nap and had some time for ourselves. Then in the evening, we started getting ready for an Industrial/Gothic Heavy Metal Party in Paceville, which a friend of ours was hosting and Dj-ing, in honor of those born under the star of Taurus (it was his bday too). My bf’s photo was on the poster ^^ The party was great. We drank, we danced, we freaked out to the beat, we met up with friends, had a laugh, and many cuddles and kisses on the dance-floor too. Afterwards (at around 3am) we took some take-away food. It was glorious. I love eating after booze and excitement.

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We went to sleep at around 4.30, cuddling in the ever enroaching heat. Semi-drunk, full of food and happiness. On Sunday, we woke up late. We played some ps4 (both of us are gamers), cuddled some more, and then in the afternoon I again asked him if he wanted to go out ‘for another drink’. Needless to say, we met some more friends. We went to a restaurant in Mellieha which my bf had been angling at and mentioning for ages. It was a meat-eatery (he loves meat) where we had some really delicious chicken, beef and pork.

What can I say, I am honestly unsure who enjoyed this weekend more, my bf or myself.