Tales of the Unexpected

The Catholic Church has been known to incorporate non-Christian traditions into its holidays in order to attract others to its faith. Some say the Church moved All Saints' Day to November 1 to correspond with Samhain and other pagan fall festivals. Consecutively, some Samhain traditions found themselves incorporated within All Saints' day. Many of these traditions were about the spirit world, ideas which didn't sit so comfortably within Christianity. The Church then tried to explain these traditions by introducing All Souls' Day, a day in which to think of the dead.

One of the cells at the Inquisitor's Palace

The American Halloween celebration has spread all over Europe, the Mediterranean and, inevitably, also in Malta. On the occasion of Halloween we have one challenge you might be interested in. The Inquisitor's Palace in Vittoriosa is offering you a night in a 17th Century cell. Heritage Malta is organising a fascinating evening which starts off with a traditional feast - a meal of vegetable soup with pork followed by roasted pig. The vegetable soup is called a Kawlata. I'm not sure if this is the same as the soup referred to as tal-Erwieh (of the Souls). The fascinating story behind the second course is the pig which, in old times, was let loose in the village streets to be fattened up by charitable parishioners so that on All Souls' Day it was fed to the poor.

The tradition of feeding the poor as a means of prayer for the dead is a long one. As All Souls' Day approached, villagers would cook vegetables, pasta and beans in a large cauldrons to dispense to those who were in need.

The event at the Inquisitor's Palace called - L-Ghid ta' L-Erwiegh - will be held on Friday November 4th. Guests will also be offered the Mahluta, a bittersweet drink representing the ups and downs of life, to compliment the meal. To the accompanyment of newwieha (traditional professional mourners), the meal will also include toasted bread with garlic and parsley, which is what mourners would have been fed by their neighbours. To finish off will be the Ghadam tal-Mejtin (dead man's bones), a bone shaped almond-based sweet.

Those wishing to take up the challenge of stopping there for the night need to bring with them a sleeping bag and a torch. More information can be found on HeritageMalta.org.