8 September: Celebrating Victory Day in Malta
Every year on 8 September, the Maltese islands commemorate Victory Day, one of the nation’s most valued and significant events. This historic event is significant both historically and religiously, making it one of the country’s five national holidays
Victory Day has deep historical roots in Malta, with three important historical events giving rise to this lucky occasion. The devastating Great Siege of Malta in 1565, when the island was subjected to an onerous and continuous siege by Ottoman forces led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Despite being vastly outnumbered, the Knights of Malta and the tenacious Maltese population held their own and survived the invasion. The siege was finally ended on September 8, 1565, and the defenders celebrated victory. This victory was a watershed point in the history of the island, and it has been remembered ever since.
Malta’s independence struggle began again in 1800, when the French garrison surrendered to British forces, thereby ending French authority. This incident underlined the significance of the day in the hearts of the Maltese people.
During World War II, Malta was once again involved in battle. The island was exposed to persistent aerial bombardment by Italian and German soldiers for more than three years. The indomitable spirit of Malta, however, won, and the siege was lifted on September 8, 1943, following Italy’s formal submission, and the island was liberated from its wartime hardship.
Victory Day has religious as well as historical importance for the Maltese people. It coincides with the Nativity of Mary, a feast commemorated by the Catholic Church from ancient times. The religious aspect of the day generates a sense of spiritual solidarity and contemplation as people pay reverence to the Blessed Virgin Mary and seek her graces for the nation.
The Maltese prepare for huge celebrations that begin the day before September 8th. In Valletta’s Great Siege Square, literary readings, intriguing music performances, and awe-inspiring artistic displays often take place. On the main day, the Armed Forces of Malta march proudly down Republic Street in celebration of the historic and cultural landmark Co-Cathedral of St. John. They salute the Prime Minister, and the soul-stirring chords of the Maltese national hymn reverberate through the air, instilling in the audience a sense of national pride.
Later in the day, a mass is performed to honour the highest-ranking officers who have served the nation with courage and commitment. Malta’s President pays respect to the fallen by planting a symbolic garland at the foot of the Great Siege monument, a painful reminder of historical sacrifices.
The festivities, however, are not limited to the capital city. The Grand Harbour comes alive with the yearly regatta, in which experienced rowing teams from several towns compete to show off their abilities on the water. A memorial celebration is held in Rabat’s Independence Square on Gozo, Malta’s sister island. The Minister for Gozo preside over the event, and the Armed Forces of Malta march in a parade that culminates in the laying of a wreath at the War Memorial dedicated to Christ the King of Jews.
Victory Day is significant to the Maltese because it reminds them of their rich heritage and perseverance in the face of adversity. The celebrations feature a reaffirmation of the ideas and beliefs that have shaped the nation’s identity throughout history, as well as a commemoration of past achievements. Every year, as 8 September approaches, the Maltese people come together to celebrate Victory Day, remembering their history while looking forward to a bright future.