Click to original BBC article.

I was doing a search for an article to do with economics, competition, the Euro. This came up, and I just could not avoid it. I don’t know much of the Maltese culture, except that we work with an amazing language school there for intensive courses. I usually recommend it when someone would like to mix learning with holidays on the beach.

Have you heard of the word PIKA? I would LOVE to have your opinion as a Spaniard – you see – an Englishman wrote this article. He considers the Maltese to be extremely competitive, as they have rivalry in their “fiestas”. In reading the article, well, one can clearly grasp that. Is this the same that is experienced in other regions of Spain? PLEASE TELL!!

This is the beginning of the article (but by all means, read the complete article in the original BBC blog):

The concept of pika is a cornerstone of Maltese culture; it’s written into the skyline of the capital Valletta, and permeates across all walks of life.

  • By Justin Calderon

8 January 2019

There is a competitive nature that permeates through Malta so raw and unbridled that it’s written into the skyline of its capital, Valletta, and permeates across all walks of life on the archipelago.

I’m talking about pika – a Maltese word that roughly means ‘a neighbourly rivalry’, but is one of those terms that feels like a fool’s errand when foreigners try to interpret it.

Pika is, as Professor George Cassar, who teaches heritage and cultural tourism at the University of Malta explained, what drives Maltese to outdo their immediate rivals. Usually, this rivalry involves followers of different saints within the same town – a ‘this-town-isn’t-big-enough-for-both-of-us’ attitude – and ranges from benign sportsmanship to premeditated aggression.

 “Pika is what drove the Maltese in 1958 to tear down and rebuild the Carmelite Basilica that today defines Valletta’s horizon with a 42m-high dome, just to overshadow the Anglican Cathedral next door,” he said.

Pika is also what brought about a man getting hit over the head with a flowerpot, according to the Times of Malta, during a festival in August last year. Meanwhile, just less than two weeks later, two parishes exchanged sacrilegious insults about their rivals’ Virgin Mary statue – ‘Ours is the most beautiful statue. Yours is the ugliest in Malta’; also an example of pika.

That these last two events took place so close in time is no coincidence. Every year, Malta’s festa season, when villages celebrate their patron saints by throwing big feasts, peaks between June and September. At this time, pika summons the islands’ hot-blooded Mediterranean spirit to the fore, as parishes compete in a paradoxically sacrilegious celebration of the sacred. Rivalries have become so intense that festas have had to be partially cancelled, the most recent in 2004, due to the threat of violence.

Year after year, followers of respective patron saints attempt to outspend and outdo their neighbouring parish in a contentious crusade for showmanship that seems truly fit for the descendants of the Knights Hospitaller, the medieval sect of Catholic warriors from Jerusalem that ruled Malta for about 300 years from 1530. To this day, Maltese festa pageantry, artefacts and ornaments take cues from the Baroque style that defined the 17th- and 18th-Century architecture of the Order of St John, such as the hand-held carriage that transports the statue of the saint to the festa’s main stage, and the hand-carved wooden centrepiece for the Sunday feast. In recent years, festas have included competing theatre companies and a new record for hoisting 711 flags in a village.