There are some who say that Malta is made for summer, and summers are made for festas, beer and fireworks. Half of Malta – the one half that loves fireworks – will make the pilgrimage to the various town and village feasts and watch the place ‘go up in smoke.’ At some festas, like that of Lija, coloured fireworks are veritable works of art.
Fireworks have always ruffled emotions in this country – and none more so than petards, or murtali, the colourless ‘big bangs’ that are let off during the day and now increasingly after dusk too. If you want to get a flavour of what we’re talking about, there’s a short clip here. A few summer’s ago, a Facebook group was set up calling for a total ban on petards. The group has gathered nearly 3,000 members, and it had an online petition, presumably presented to Government at some point. The petition is still here. Judging by the noise outside my house right now, at 21.00, the group and its petition made little inroad into the mentality that says petards are perfectly fine, thanks.
There appear to be two broad schools of thought about petards:
Don’t ban them
1. Petards are part of Malta’s heritage.
2. Petards make a festa.
3. Petards honour the saint during the day.
4. If you don’t like petards, you are not a true Maltese patriot (and hence should never come close to a festa).
1. Petards constitute noise pollution.
2. Petards are dangerous (accidents at fireworks factories are frequent, and often fatal).
3. Petards terrify babies, kids, the sick, the elderly, pets (my cat is hiding under my computer desk as I write),tourists, and anyone who has a problem with 153 db of unsolicited noise.
4. If you like petards, you are uncivil, a Neanderthal and bring shame to your country.
Where do we stand?
I love the coloured fireworks – they remind me of everything that is awesome about growing up on this island. And I hate petards with the vehemence of someone who, like most parents, had to explain to a child, at some stage, that Malta was not at war, that the window panes would eventually stop trembling and that if you close your eyes tightly and cover your ears, it will all go away, like a bad dream.
I live in the hope that petards will be banned in my lifetime. What of EC noise pollution laws? Surely, there is some recourse here?
Photo: Andrew Galea Debono