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Title: A risky delight : the dangers of being a participant in a Maltese festa
Other Titles: Risk and safety challenges for religious tourism and events
Authors: Cassar, George
Munro, Dane
Keywords: Fasts and feasts
Fireworks -- Malta
Horse racing -- Malta
Fireworks -- Accidents
Band clubs -- Malta
Bands (Music) -- Malta
Tourism -- Religious aspects
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: CABI
Citation: Cassar, G., & Munro, D. (2018). A risky delight : the dangers of being a participant in a Maltese festa. In M.E. Korstanje, R. Raj & K. Griffin (Eds.), Risk and safety challenges for religious tourism and events (pp. 134-146). Wallingford: CABI.
Series/Report no.: CABI Riligious Tourism and Pilgrimage Series;
Abstract: Malta is renowned for its feasts. Summer is feast season par excellence in this traditionally Catholic archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Religious celebrations honouring of the patron saint of every town and village of the Maltese islands – Malta and Gozo – are a true mix of the spiritual and the secular. These charged events create a space for locals and tourists to mingle, to admire and absorb the vibrant atmosphere, and to enjoy themselves. Maltese festivities are long, noisy, colourful, and hectic; yet they are at the same time, organised, established and annual rituals – they are as traditional as they are contemporary (Cassar 2015). Undoubtedly, festas can also be a risky business. Spectators, along with the participants, can at times be in peril, usually without them being aware. This may be truer in the case of spectators who are tourists as these are not generally conscious about the realities of the Maltese festa. The local feasts are typically announced and celebrated with a distinctive display of fireworks, sometimes with animal races, always with band marches, and invariably with the devout procession with the statue of the patron saint on the feast day. Fireworks in Malta are the domain of the dilettanti tan-nar (fireworks enthusiasts), a group of zealous individuals, mostly men, who create fireworks out of passion or obsession, but more probably, both. Fireworks light up the night sky with a colourful array of artistic creations. Victims have been counted when fireworks factories explode and more rarely when a murtal (petard) accidentally bursts close to people. Malta is one of a few places where ground fireworks are set alight amidst the eagerly awaiting crowds just a few metres away, with all the inherent dangers that this situation carries. Some feasts also include equestrian races in the programme. These are held on public roads, pretty much without barriers and crowd control measures. These races are imbued with the same kind of passion and obsession that dominates the fireworks enthusiasts. However, no one would dream of curtailing the festa traditions, a cultural treasure for the majority of the Maltese. Not only did they not wane as Boissevain (1965) had originally predicted, but these have on the contrary intensified and expanded, as the same author had to admit some years later (Boissevain 1992). Yet, such practices obviously create an issue of safety for the visitors and tourists, as much as for many of the locals, who are usually unacquainted about the looming dangers concealed behind the colours, sounds and emotions. And there is more. Popular band marches, which are a joy to many, are also occasions for drunkenness, exposure to the harsh summer sun, the convergence of unrestricted large crowds, unhealthy rivalry and acrid competition between festa partiti (competing feast groups) and much, much more. The Maltese festa is well-documented in video footage and is easily accessible through internet sites where the viewer can grasp the tangibly evident unity of opposites represented by the safety risks interwoven with the sense of community.
ISBN: 9781786392282
Appears in Collections:Scholarly Works - FacEMATou

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