Exploring the Timeless Legacy of Maltese Feast Celebrations

One major tradition close to every local’s heart is the celebration of a village feast. The festa season in Malta begins from the end of May right through the entire summer. During this period, there is hardly any weekend when a town or a village is not celebrating the feast of its patron saint or other saints revered in different churches

Feasts have been a part of Maltese culture since the Knights of St. John’s rule, specifically under Grandmaster De Rohan, from 1775 until 1797. Malta, a largely Catholic country, values its cultural and religious traditions, and the feasts have assimilated into everyday life. The Maltese Islands host over 80 town feasts, 60 of which are hosted in Malta and 20 in Gozo, showcasing the country’s unwavering loyalty to its guests and the happy moments they inspire. 

The feasts were first established as a way to show gratitude to the gods for their blessings. However, over time they evolved into colourful, valued cultural events that the community enthusiastically looked forward to.

Feasts in Malta provide tourists with a glimpse into the long heritage of the nation. The towns of Malta contain several parish churches, many of which have multiple feast days. Some communities even celebrate the same occasion, as is the case with the well-known Santa Maria feast, which is celebrated on August 15 across seven distinct locations in Malta. With a few exceptions, the bulk of feasts in Malta take place between May and September. 

Travelling to Malta in the summer is a terrific opportunity to experience these feasts firsthand. In Malta, a feast often includes fireworks displays, marching bands, and regional specialties. The main focus of Malta’s feasts has always been religious festivals since their origin. These events are incredibly significant because they give locals and visitors a place to get together and have fun. The colossal scale of the celebrations in Malta makes each feast unique and unforgettable.

Celebrations frequently begin up to two weeks before the actual feast day. Events like band marches are arranged at this period and a huge procession frequently takes place the night or few days prior to the main event. Typically, the night before or on the day of the feast, the Catherine Wheels fireworks display is held. In the town square and the area of the church, vibrant decorations, holy items, damask tapestries, and intricate patterns praise the patron and emphasise the significance of craftsmanship as a form of cultural expression. Since the majority of these decorations are handmade, planning for them frequently takes a whole year. 

stella maris feast

A morning procession is usually held on the actual feast day, followed by fun activities all day long. In the evening, the congregation conducts a procession while carrying the patron’s statue. Notably, there is a unique custom in Mgarr, Malta, where bidders will pay a substantial sum of money to have the statue removed from the church and prominently displayed in the town centre. 

The food vendors, who provide a range of delicious meals, are given a lot of attention in the feast’s framework.  Traditional fare and well-known street snacks like sausages and sugar floss are served during the feasts in Malta, which offer a range of meals to suit every appetite. Anyone with a sweet tooth must indulge in “imqaret,” delicious pan-fried date cakes, and nougat from quaint wooden kiosks with vintage weighing scales. 

Even if you do not consider yourself religious, you might still want to visit a village festival to observe the elaborate street decorations and church decorations in each town or city. Maltese feasts are a dynamic and important cultural custom that are highly valued on the island. These celebrations feature a special fusion of religious devotion, neighbourhood pride, and joy that gives both locals and tourists a memorable experience. The splendour of the feasts, with their vibrant processions, elaborate decorations, and jovial mood, reflects Malta’s rich historical and religious past. These feasts are more than just beautiful; they act as a unifying factor, promoting a strong sense of identity and belonging among the Maltese people!