The traditional Maltese display of statues depicting the Easter story at the Malta Bake Shop in Toronto’s west end. Photo by Allison Hunwicks

Bringing a bit of Maltese tradition to west Toronto this Easter

By  Allison Hunwicks, The Catholic Register
  • April 7, 2012

TORONTO - Nestled in the back corner of the Malta Bake Shop, amidst the sweet fragrance of golden pastries, sits an artistic homage to the Passion of our Lord.

Owner Charlie Buttigieg has been collecting and displaying statues of the Easter story for the customers in his west-end Toronto shop to enjoy for the past seven years. The figures are beautifully rendered and full of detail, and are a common tradition in Buttigieg’s native Malta.

“I start with the first one, Christ in the garden, and that starts on Ash Wednesday. And then every week I add a statue to the display. Exactly as they do it back home in Malta,” said Buttigieg.

Buttigieg told The Catholic Register that such displays are found in homes all over Malta, and in churches the statues found are usually life-sized depictions that develop the scene over the Lenten season until Good Friday. The entire scene culminates with the risen Christ statue being displayed on Easter Sunday.

“You don’t see that much in a restaurant,” said Buttigieg of his collection. “Sometimes my wife teases me and says, ‘you have more statues than they have in the church!’ But, I like it. It’s like my hobby.”

The display has also resonated with the Malta Bake Shop clientele, as customers anticipate the display not only for Easter but also the Nativity display he puts on for Christmas, and other special occasions. As well, every November, the shop erects a memorial shrine of sort for customers who have passed away over the previous year.

“All the customers that come in go and look there,” said Buttigieg, who feels that his hobby helps to bring the clientele into a deeper appreciation of the season. “People love it.”

In addition to the Passion display, the bakery also makes a pastry called Figolli, which is filled with almond and shaped to resemble things such as baskets and musical instruments. Buttigieg says that this is a very old Maltese tradition that is only put out at Easter time.

With most of the statues having made the trip all the way from Malta, the displays are of particular importance to the Malta Bake Shop’s owner.

“We’re always busy in here. It’s long hours and sometimes I’ll even go until after midnight,” said Buttigieg.

“But I still like to do it.”

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