Words by VISITGOZO / MINISTRY FOR GOZO | Extract taken from August's 2022 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
Summer is about the sizzling sun, blissful coastlines and the wonderful Mediterranean dishes accompanied by local fruit, ripened to honey sweetness. The season is highlighted by the Gozitan festa season, a colourful flow of uninterrupted weekends of band marches, religious processions and fireworks that are the ultimate expression of local culture and identity that every visitor has to experience. The festa season peaks in mid-August when Victoria (Ir-Rabat), Gozo celebrates the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, also known as Santa Marija, coinciding with the peak of the summer holiday season across Europe.
This Santa Marija feast is held in very high esteem by the Maltese as it is connected to one of the most crucial historical moments during World War II, when food and fuel supplies arrived in Malta on the 15th August 1942 amid heavy bombardments, saving the islands from starvation. This gave Malta a lifeline of hope and for this the island has remained religiously grateful.
The Santa Marija festa is celebrated in Victoria from the 11th to the 15th August, this is when Victoria becomes the centre of festivities as the city dons its very best for the week-long celebrations. The smell of traditional date cakes and nougat fills the air as children run around the town’s streets playing with confetti. The youth express their love for Santa Marija with joyful chants to the upbeat music marching bands. Expect hundreds of revellers partying along Republic Street with traditional and festive chants while spectacular fireworks spiral their way into the air lighting up Victoria and the whereabouts.
Santa Marija Agrarian Show
The feast of Santa Marija is deeply rooted in tradition as can be seen in the popular agricultural show that has been taking place in Gozo, every 15th August, since 1855. This show is held at the Villa Rundle gardens in Victoria and includes exhibits of local produce, livestock, poultry, farm machinery, vegetables and song birds. Artisan work and crafts, locally produced wines, oil, and honey are also on display making this show an authentic local experience. Connected with this show are the national street horse races in Republic Street which, to date, is known by one and all as racecourse street.