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Malta, a tiny speck in the Mediterranean, is filled to its brim with traditions. One of these traditions is the village festa. Following a photo diary we published, portraying Ħal Għaxaq’s festa, in this blog post I will explain the proceedings of a traditional Maltese village festa.
Malta’s predominant religion is Roman Catholic. The majority of villages in Malta have a patron Saint, and every village celebrates a festa once a year (sometimes even more times) in lieu of their patron Saint. There’s more. A number of Maltese villages have more than just one Saint ‘protecting’ their village, and a feast in honour of this Saint is also in order every other year.
A number of committees that take care of different aspects of the festa, coordinate all the festa celebrations. There would normally be a committee for fireworks (both land and sky), another for women, another for adolescents, and another for village decorations. I shouldn’t forget to mention the village band (formed mainly of brass, percussion and woodwind instruments). The band makes a huge part of the festa celebrations, because what is a party without music?
All work done in aid of the village festa is on voluntary basis. No one involved in the organisation of the celebration gets a solid income in return. The committees work incessantly all year through, and organise fund-raisers to fund the financial and logistic management of the upcoming festa.
4. Il-Każin – The Band Club
Il-każin, or band club in English, is something not to be missed. This is where committees meet, and it is also the main venue to a number of parties organised during the festa by the said band club. The band club would normally look like some sort of palace, and consist of bombastic architecture and extravagant decorations (both from the inside and outside). It would normally even have an annex close to it being used as store rooms to all the festa decorations.
The village firework committee normally works on the fireworks throughout the winter season. Summer in the Maltese islands is off-season for the production of sky and land fireworks. This is mainly due to danger caused by warm temperatures.
Fireworks in Malta are used during weddings and special occasions, but definitely reach their full potential during festas. Firework festivals are renowned in Malta, and happen on the eve of the festa in question. The work put during the year to make the fireworks, is exhibited through huge elaborate spinning wheels, and marvellous sky fireworks synchronised to music.
Bonus Tip – Clothing
Maltese tend to take out their fancy attire during their village festa. Even though this “tradition” is slowly fading away, the majority of locals still put on their best clothes and brush up for the festa. Men wear shirts, and women put on a dress and a pair of heels. If you’re visiting as a tourist, it would be nice to blend in. Yet again, it is also good to keep in mind that you will be walking or standing during most of the evening. Also, there will hardly be any place to sit down.
Village Festa – Conclusion
Celebrations for the festa do not go on only on the day. Village celebrations span from one to three weeks before the actual date. All festas in Malta happen on a Sunday, except the feast of Saint Mary which is on the 15th. of August.
Various activities are held either in the village, or in the band club of the respective festa, on the same week of the festa. Activities may vary from morning-coffee gatherings and reunion dinners, to discos and full on concerts (with famous local andinternational acts). The festa weekend goes on as follows:
- Thursday: March in the evening (with the contribution of a live band)
- Friday: March in the evening (with the contribution of a live band) & fireworks
- Saturday evening: Live concert, with the contribution of a live band.
- Saturday night: Fireworks festival. First it’s the sky fireworks, and land fireworks are always left for last.
- Sunday morning: March (with the contribution of a live band). Afternoon march and celebrations, normally followed by a disco.
- Sunday evening: Procession with the statue. Statue and people taking part in the procession leave the parish church at 19:00.
Maltese village festas are a treat to locals and tourists alike. From street decorations, to live music and fireworks, you see it all during the festa. A list of all village festas (parish celebrations) in Malta can be found online. There is nearly a festa every weekend during the summer season. Make sure you visit one!