Village Feasts in Malta

During summer, there's at least a couple of festas every weekend. The traditional feasts of the saints remain an integral part of the life of the Church and of the culture of the Maltese Islands.

The festa is the main social event in the village throughout the year. Festa week is the outcome of months of hard work by volunteers. The week-long festivities celebrate the parish patron saint. On the day of the feast, the statue of the patron saint is carried on shoulders to the accompaniment of brass bands as it goes around the village streets in a procession.

The celebrations themselves include magnificent firework displays, for which the Maltese Islands are well known, brass band music and street life. Band music is one of the most popular traditions on the Islands. Every town and village has at least one, usually two band clubs. Traditional festa snacks include the rich, colourful nougat.

Under the summer skies, families meet in the central village square to chat and catch up on local news. The village feast is basically the opportunity for all families to get together and above all it is the perfect occasion for visitors to experience Maltese village life.

One of the major festas is The Assumption of Our Lady which takes place on the 15th of August, and catches the attention of colonial Maltese from all over the world.  Another best known of all Maltese feast is Our Lady of Victories held on the 8th September, celebrating the defeat of the Turks at the end of Great Siege of 1565 which coincides also with the end of Blitz in Malta and with the feast of the Birth of the Virgin.  The highlight of this great day is the Regatta (boat race) held in the Grand Harbour.

Undoubtedly, the village feast is one of the island’s most visual cultural festivities, and various aspects of such celebration would appeal, from food stands selling traditional Maltese nougat to the spectacular exhibition of powerful set-piece fireworks.  The entire village will be decorated with banners and other buildings such as the band clubs will also be lavishly decorated.  The village houses are decorated too, with flags and brightly coloured banners whilst all the streets are brightly lit while the band marches through them during the week, followed by crowds of people enjoying the surroundings and music.  

But the attraction is the church with luxurious red damask inside and hundreds of coloured lights decorating outside.  On the feast day itself, there is more of a religious feeling as the statue of the patron saint is carried shoulder-high by villagers through the streets, whilst the gathering crowds, mostly children, throw confetti from their balconies and roofs.  On the night, musicians and singers are united in the village square to perform an outdoor concert on the statue’s way in to the parish church.

A lot of cautious preparation is held throughout the year, to get things set for the festa week whilst the events are very much of a spiritual nature. Hotels and local tour operators often arrange evening excursions to the main village festas.