Gozo’s colourful and joyful feasts are back as they take centre stage once again this summer after a two-year wait. Each village has its patron saint, and these feasts are organised in their honour. These tributes to the Saints know their origin in times when life in Gozo was full of hardships and the population looked onto the saints to solicit their help for protection, prosperity, and peace. The deep religious devotion has evolved over time and today the feasts are a spectacle of colour and music that brings exuberance to the summer weekends! Here’s a quick guide to the feasts.
Words by VISITGOZO / MINISTRY FOR GOZO | Extract taken from June's 2022 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
A saint for every village
Each village has its own patrons Saint and the town of Rabat has two feasts, one in honour of St George and another celebrates the Assumption of Our Lady. Each feast can be said to have its own dominant colour. The villages honouring saints that have died as martyrs of the church often pick the red colour and those emblazoning Marian saints usually choose the blue colour. These colours will be predominantly everywhere during the feast. During the day it’s easy to identify the village celebrating the feast from the flags being flown on rooftops. In the evening the flag masts are adorned with an intense red or blue lights and it truly feels like the village is beckoning all visitors to join in its celebrations!
No feast without the band
The numerous band societies that are found in Gozo, contribute a lot to the merry atmosphere of the village feasts. The music of the marches as the band proceeds through the street is intrinsically part of the excitement and cheering of the youths and youngsters who sing and dance as a crowd wearing the predominant colour of the village. The scene is further enriched by flurries of confetti and pre-strung balloon nets with hundreds of balloons that are dropped on the crowds.
Light up the sky
With so many fireworks enthusiasts on the island, the spectacle involving both ground and sky fireworks is second to none. From the stronger petards to the flowery display of colours that brilliantly light the sky for just a couple of seconds to the ground fireworks like the dazzling pinwheels, the pyrotechnic abilities improve from one generation to the next ensuring that Gozo’s fireworks display will always delight.
Streets of Colour
In the spirit of true community, the streets are gaily decorated with festoons, banners, flags and garlands. Some of the lighted street decorations literally look like intricate embroidery designs. In Għarb, where the feast this year is being held on the weekend of the 2nd of July, an ‘infiorata’, a carpet of flowers graces the main square of the village. On the weekend the crowds will fill up the streets and bars. Food kiosks and stalls provide refreshments and traditional Gozitan street food like ‘cheesecakes’. One important tradition associated with the feasts is the nougat. Nougat stall or ‘tal-qubbajt’, as they are known, sell both the softer almond flavoured nougat and the hard brown one. If you’re lucky you might even find a small stall that sells the traditional ruġġata, a refreshing summer drink!
The heart is the Church
The heart of the authentic Gozitan feast is the church. Take a peek inside because apart from exterior decorations like the hundreds of light bulbs that adorn the church’s exterior, the church edifices will don on their precious damask and other fine vestments will be taken out and used especially for the occasion. The church’s celebrations will include the novena, a 9-day preparation before the actual feast which culminates in the Triduum and over the weekend. The tolling of the church bells and the sacred music that the choirs sing are all in honour of the saint. The feast peaks on Sunday, when the statue of the patron saint is carried through the streets following the procession of altar boys and clergy.
The organisations of such elaborate feasts depend on the dedication of many volunteers and this is what makes the festa in each of the villages a truly passionate celebration. A village festa is usually 3 to 6 days long and climaxes on the dates indicated below:
5 June: Feast of St Anthony of Padua, Għajnsielem
12 June: Feast of Corpus Christi, Għasri
19 June: Feast of the Sacred Heart, Fontana
26 June: Feast of St. John the Baptist, Xewkija
29 June: Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, Nadur
3 July: Feast of the Visitation, Għarb
10 July: Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Kerċem
16 July: Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Xewkija
17 July: Feast of St. George, Victoria
24 July: Feast of St Margaret, Sannat
31 July: Feast of St Lawrence, San Lawrenz
7 August: Feast of St Joseph, Qala
15 August: Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, Victoria
21 August: Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, Żebbuġ
28 August: Feast of Our Lady of Loreto, Għajnsielem
4 September: Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Xlendi
8 September: Feast of Our Lady of Victories, Xagħra
18 September: Feast of Our Lady of Graces, Victoria