28 and 29 September mark Zejtun's oil festival, when the olive coloured flags of Zejtun will be flying high and the city will be stepping back into the 1500s to honour old traditions.
By Caroline Crutchley
Harvest time for whichever crop is a significant event. It is a time of hard work, a time for reflection on the past year but most of all a time of rejoicing. A plentiful crop will feed the family and will provide an income for another year.
In Maltese the word zejt means oil and in this case olive oil. Many villages in Malta carry zejt as part of their name but none more so that Zejtun, the capital of the south. From the Phoenicians and Sematic Arabic languages zejt means the fruit of the olive. Zejtun's motto is frott iz zebbug ismi literally my name is the fruit of the olive tree. At the rear of St Catherine's Church is a stone press with an olive tree close by and is a daily humble reminder of just how important the oil is to Zejtun.
And on 28 and 29 September 2013 the olive coloured flags of Zejtun will be flying high. The city of Beland will be stepping back into the 1500's to honour old traditions.
With much fanfare, honour guard and standard bearers the Grand Master Perellos will be welcomed onto the church steps by the Archpriest and Mayor Attard. The green flags to represent olives and red flags that honour St Catherine will fill the sky with colour. And with a grand proclamation the event Zejt iz-Zejtun will begin again at 19.30. The central core of this city will be pedestrianized so that locals and tourists alike can savour the sheer joy of this bountiful time of year.
Bands, stages, food and culture will all make the evening a spectacle. Gentle folk, farmers and Grand Masters will parade in costumes that contrast and convey the gap in wealth. Taxes are paid and a parade of donkey carts opens the event. However the star of the show has to be the olive, a staple of life for its food, its oil and fuel. What better way than to dip fresh baked ftajjar into newly pressed oil? The two band clubs unite and throw open their doors as well as the bell tower of the church. Traditional artisans such a weavers and basket makers will enthral and draw the crowds.
This year there is also an important addition to the ever growing throng. A zone has been set aside for the Baroque city Modica, our Sicilian neighbours. They too have an olive oil tradition from its nearby countryside of Frigintini, where many have a piece of land to harvest and whole families of all ages assist. So close to our shores, we share similar foods and traditions. Along with the olive oils and wines there will be cheeses, dolce, local sausage, sun dried tomatoes to name just a few products on offer. The famous Modican chocolate in dozens of flavours but especially the fiery chilli flavour, is a special treat to taste. Made from the fifteenth century Spanish recipe, Modican chocolate is a Spanish conquistador's pick me up. A local artist will bring paintings that depict a snap shot of Modica lifestyle and city. So this is not only your chance to visit one time zone but two countries on the evening of the 28 and then again on the morning of 29.
And then after a late night, the church again is the focal point of village life. The archpriest and Mayor will carry out the blessing of the animals. Proud owners will rise early to prepare for the parade. Gleaming coated horses along with cats, dogs and all kinds of pets will be held in arms to be blessed.
The City of Beland, Zejtun, named after the mother of Grand master Ferdinand von Hompesch will be ready to take on the next cycle of the seasons.
Be drawn back into times gone by and visit Zejt iz- Zejtun.
Check out Caroline Crutchley's blog The Gadabout Girl at www.gadaboutgirl.com