Culture in Malta - language, music, churches & handicrafts
Throughout the long and turbulent history of Malta, culture has changed as much as the ruling nation. As Malta became independent in the mid 1900s, the island now has a predominantly Mediterranean culture, although over a century of British rule has left its mark.
Maltese cuisine is most like Sicilian in style, although traditional English dishes are as easy to find as the local ones. Pop into any restaurant and you'll be as likely to find bangers and mash on the menu as well as the local specialities. Rabbit is a popular dish, normally served in a casserole, cheese and pasta also feature heavily on local menus.
Local handicrafts are generally of good quality and well made. Lace and other fabrics are especially noteworthy; don't be surprised if you visit in the height of summer, to see women sitting on the street knitting thick woollen jumpers. Fine hand-blown glass and glass figurines are also popular gifts.
Folk music makes up the majority of musical entertainment in Malta. Folk traditions have stood the test of time and centre around the patron saint of a town or village. Their saint's day is celebrated with fireworks and a procession. A folk song competition is held every June to mark the main folk festival, the feast of St Peter and St Paul. This is also celebrated by performances of the national dance.
Malta is overwhelmingly Catholic and Catholic churches and monuments are the dominant landmarks in every town. Maltese people live their lives very much under the Catholic influence; divorce and abortion are still illegal and look to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Catholic festivals and saints' feast days are the most important days of the year and the celebrations are large scale.
The native Maltese language, Malti, has been traced back to the Phoenician era. It is similar to Arabic and, although it still maintains much of its original form, the invading English, French, Italian and Spanish forces have evidently left their mark on it. English newspapers are as easy to come by as Maltese ones and radio and television is also broadcast in both English and Malti. As a result, English is spoken as often as Malti and the locals are keen to use it.