How to make “Maltese traditional” figolli

The tradition of “Figolli”, goes back to ancient times, thousands of years back …. and it is assumed to have originated in Sicily, Italy.  Its roots can be traced back to pagan history but more recently, they are a traditional post-lent snack and are often given to children as an Easter gift… They generally come in the shape of rabbits, butterflies, or Easter eggs, but you can also find them shaped like men and women. They are a mouth-watering mixture of biscuit, marzipan and icing, with a moist soft almond paste in the centre and are finished off with icing or chocolate coating and a chocolate egg on top!

Many housewives still enjoy making delicious “figolli”, in the company of young children who draw their favorite shapes on cardboard or use ready made shape templates about 20cm to 25cm long but You can also buy these everywhere around this time of the year, from supermarkets, bakeries, confectionaries, and other food shops and they are a must try for anyone visiting the islands.

Holy Week and Easter in Malta

Typically, Easter celebrations in Malta last a long few days and have a strong religious significance also know as Holy Week.

The celebrations begin the Friday preceding Good Friday when a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows is carried in a procession through the streets of Valletta, the capital, as well as many other small towns and villages. This is the kick off of the Easter celebrations and is a wonderful experience.

Towards the end of Holy Week, the celebrations really kick up a gear on Maundy Thursday. This is when the Last Supper is commemorated and worshippers pay visits to seven ‘Altars of Repose’, all in different churches. ‘Altars of Repose’ are altars where the Communion hosts, which are consecrated during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday are placed, in preparation for Good Friday, and so form a crucial part of the Easter celebrations. The altars are beautifully decorated and offer a real visual treat, as well as the opportunity to reflect on the holiday and celebrations. Then comes Good Friday, a rather sombre affair, seen as a day of penance and is observed through veneration of the cross and processions in different locations, during which scenes from the Passion and Death of Christ are carried out. Although this may seem a gloomy day, it is a crucial part of the whole Easter experience in Malta.

Easter Sunday is a day of huge celebration, thus day starts with the ringing of the bells in churches to celebrate the resurrection. At mid-morning, a statue of the Risen Christ is processioned through the streets and carried triumphantly into the church. This is a day for celebration, fun and another crucial aspect… followed up by many traditions. It is a tradition to present children with chocolate coated Easter Eggs as part of the celebration, along the typical figolla, which is an almond filled pastry in the shape of a rabbit, lamb, heart or fish. Both of these are treats following the fantastic family feast which takes place after 40 days of potential fasting and no sweets.

The Easter feast is the pinnacle of the celebrations and is an occasion for the whole family to get together. Delicacies include kwarezimal, also known as ‘Lenten’ cookies, which are sweet, traditional cakes or biscuits, more common during the period of Lent, but also widely celebrated and enjoyed as an Easter sweet.

Due to the covid-19 restrictions, churches have been shut and no processions or religious ceremonies are being held during Holy Week this year.

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