Processions: their multi-dimensional undertones

The act of moving along in a ceremonious manner might mean different things to different people. Some might simply identify this sort of public manifestation with religious processions, though the meaning can be extended beyond. Obviously one might object the intended appraisal or the comparison, but there is more than meets the eye when speaking of religious or secular public manifestations, because they do share common undertones.

Underlining these public manifestations is a desired or imagined sense of belonging that partly contrasts our increased sense of insulated individualism. Within our colourful Mediterranean milieu this is often accompanied by an acute sense of communal fun that outsiders might not always easily comprehend. Yes, because it’s not simply a question of the Zabbar’s bicycle pilgrimage crisscrossing our island, but also of motorcades celebrating football wins – unfortunately often not our own, or political outcomes.

 

The colourful draperies, the placards, crosses, and the attires accompanying these manifestations serve to assert the ideals stimulating them, further strengthened by intrusive amplifiers. Unsurprisingly they might also be provocative, determined not only to celebrate one’s own identity, but also to challenge and at times ridicule intended targets: thus the carnival’s portrayal of politicians, or the once provocative 1st of May pageants, not to mention the more recent Gay Pride manifestations.

Likewise, these public displays are indicative of a community’s identity amplified by specific representations: effigies, flags, and emblems. Surpassing sentiments, this concentrated energy serves to contrast the community in question, simultaneously reinforcing its internal identity. Ensuing, understanding these religious or secular public manifestations and their clasp on the public imagination infers a need to publicly vent a personal ideal collectively.

Surpassing superstition, these processions serve as a valve for people to express their attitudes and deep-rooted convictions whilst creating the necessary mental space to reassess life’s fickleness: for instance, the “id-Duluri” is one example of merged sentiments and psychological transfers not necessary undermining the faith nor the genuine sentiments of those involved.

Obviously, financial undertones cannot be excluded: after all, the green revolution conjured to celebrate St Patrick’s, and the not so recently introduced Halloween and St. Valentine’s revels, definitely produce good profits. One can also speak of national interests as far as religious displays are concerned: tourism.

Drama, whether it’s the illumined Way of the Cross leading to the La Ferla Cross, or the rainbow colours projected on the Grand Master’s Palace as people celebrated the approval by Parliament of the Civil Unions Act, definitely plays an important part in these orchestrated public manifestations. Additionally, these manifestations express the participants’ own journey: parades are mere performances seeking an audience. Assenting, it’s not always easy to distinguish the difference, and at times neither is it apparently desired by the participants.

Are these manifestations, be they religious or secular, desirable? Well, that’s one question that requires a personal answer.

However, perhaps the point is more likely to relate to what these public manifestations propose and how they are used to either enhance or impoverish our heritage and identity, be it religious or secular.

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