The Maltese Village Festa
In Malta the "Festa Season" starts from the end of May and goes on throughout the Summer months until the end of September. There are a few exceptions of feasts that take place earlier or later on in the year, for example the feast of St. Paul's Shipwreck that takes place on the 10th February every year. Every village has at least one patron saint, with some even having two or three, and it is these patron saints that are celebrated during these feasts.
A village feast takes place over an extended weekend, and each feast has it's own annual allocated weekend. In the week before the feast, the respective village will decorate the streets with statues raised on wooden columns, as well as with festoons and banners, all dedicated to their patron saints.
The people living in the town or village are so devoted to their patron saint, that it is common for them to give their homes a fresh coat of paint a few weeks before, in preparation for the feast. Flags are also hoisted on private residences as a sign of participation in the festivities. If you're really curious, you may be able to view the decorated interiors of private homes through the open doors and windows... You may even get lucky and be invited in to one of the houses to get a closer look and celebrate with the family!
Stalls selling traditional and fast food, as well as some toys for the children line the streets of the village. Some sweet treats to try are imqaret (which are deep fried date cakes), traditional local nougat, known as qubbajt, and small, sugar coated, deep fried doughnuts.
One of the most fun parts of a village festa is the band march. On the main evenings of the festa, the village band marches through the streets and towards the church playing some of the locals' favourite festa songs, many of which will be composed by local maestros.
However, the ceremonial highlight of any festa is the carrying of the statue of the patron saint. In the run up to the festa, some of the most devoted villagers bid for the privilege of carrying the statue out of the church and into the village square. In some villages, the amount bid goes into the thousands of euros, for example in the village of Mgarr a team of people last year bid €12,000 for the honour of carrying the statue! A percentage of the amount goes to local charities.
With all these activities that happen throughout the feast days, the part that really entertains the crowd has to be the wonderful firework displays! There are three types of fireworks that are used in Maltese feasts, the first type are known as murtali, these are petards that make an dreadfully loud bang when airborne, but they are apparently part of the tradition of the village feast. After the petards, a colourful and impressived display of fireworks lights up the night sky. However, my favourite fireworks are the Catherine wheels, or as they are known by locals, the ġigġifoguor. These are elaborate pinwheel structures that produce gliterring, displays of sounds and colour.
If you would like to see a list of village feasts for 2016, you can do so by clicking here.
Want to join a tour to one of these feasts? Or maybe find out more information about them? Feel free to drop us a line for more info by clicking here.