The culture of Malta is the culture of the Maltese islanders and reflects various societies that have come into contact with the Maltese Islands throughout the centuries, including neighbouring Mediterranean cultures, and the cultures of the nations that ruled Malta for long periods of time prior to its independence in 1964.
Religion: Today, the Constitution of Malta provides for freedom of religion but establishes Roman Catholicism as the state religion. Freedom House and the World Factbook report that 98 percent of the Maltese profess Roman Catholicism as their religion, making Malta one of the most Catholic countries in the world. However, the Sunday Mass Attendance Census 2005 commissioned by the Church of Malta reports that, as of 2005, only 52.6% of the population attended religious services on a regular basis.
Sports: Throughout the 1990s, organized sports in Malta experienced a renaissance through the creation of a number of athletic facilities, including National Stadium and a basketball pavilion in Ta’ Qali, an Athletic Stadium and Tartan Track for athletics, archery, rugby, baseball, softball and netball at Marsa, the National Swimming Pool Complex on University of Malta grounds at Tal-Qroqq, an enclosed swimming pool complex at Marsascala, a mechanized shooting range at Bidnija, and regional sports complexes on Gozo, and in Cottonera and Karwija.
In 1993 and again in 2003, Malta hosted the Games of the Small States of Europe. Since 1968, Malta has also hosted the annual Rolex Middle Sea Race, organized by the Royal Malta Yacht Club. The race consists of a 607-mile (977 km) route that starts and finishes in Malta, via the Straits of Messina and the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa.
Maltese cuisine reflects Maltese history; it shows strong Sicilian and English influences as well as Spanish, French, Maghrebin, Provençal, and other Mediterranean cuisines. Having to import most of its foodstuffs, being positioned along important trade routes, and having to cater for the resident foreign powers who ruled the islands, opened Maltese cuisine to outside influences. The traditional Maltese stewed rabbit (fenkata) is often identified as the national dish.
Festival: The Maltese Islands have a number of religious festivities and cultural events that takes place every year. Feast days are the life of the Islands and some holy days are actually national holidays, such as the feast of Santa Marija in mid-August. Others, such as the harvest festival of Mnarja at the end of June, are steeped in folklore. However, the most important events to all villages are their individual festas, honouring their parish patron saint.
Religious holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, are highly celebrated, with the traditional festivities that go along with them. As families tend to be quite close-knit, the holidays are a time to strengthen the sense of community as well as reinforce family bonds. Church services play a large role during this time of year and during the Holy Week of Easter, many flock to the churches in great numbers for the‘seven visits’, the visit of seven churches, to pay homage to the Altars of Repose.