A couple weeks ago I mentioned how last week there would be the Lija village feast. While I don’t technically live there any more, I still consider Lija to be “my” village as I have so many memories there. And in any case, we live close enough that the village feast would be impossible to avoid. In pre-covid times, that is, of course. When the occasion would be marked with more than a week’s worth of church functions, and the last three days by “external festivities”, including band marches, lots of fireworks (including ground fireworks on the eve of the feast day), and a procession with the statue along the village streets. In case it’s not already obvious, this is a grand affair, far out of scale with the size of the village. But then that too is what it means to be Mediterranean.
The church itself is dressed up for the occasion, both externally (with the coloured lights and organic designs) and also internally (with damask coverings on the walls, and the use of the parish’s best silver ware). In a normal year, the pjazza in front of the church would be chock-full of people, waiting for the start of the procession (il-ħruġ tal-istatwa, as the Maltese have it, or the triumphal issue of the statue). With the pandemic still not quite under control (even with a very high proportion of the population fully vaccinated, unfortunately, with the current variants), things were rather low key this year. External events were not allowed, except for a relatively small fireworks programme on the feast day itself.
I headed down to the church as sunset approached, intending to make a photo of the façade – I wanted the decorations lit, with enough natural light to keep the building itself well lit. I wasn’t expecting a lot of people in the pjazza, and for certain there were much less people than there would normally be. But I still couldn’t really understand what those people I saw there were waiting for. I would have expected that anyone who had attended the church function would have left when it was over, but it seems the sense of community still remains, and most people were likely hanging around simply for a chat. I set up in the middle of the pjazza by the statue of St Peter, took my photos, and headed back home to watch the fireworks from our rooftop.