A burst of colour, music and bright fireworks illuminate the Maltese Summer nights providing visitors with a most memorable experience.
The Maltese village festa is the distilled essence of all that is Mediterranean in one event. These feasts combine colourful lights, band music, noisy and bright fireworks displays, and a crowd of hundreds spilling out of bars onto the noisy streets into one orgy of celebration. It’s an unforgettable experience of food, drink, music and fanfare.
Festas are held mainly between the months of May and September, although there are a few exceptions. Every village has at least one patron saint, and this serves as the basis for the village feast. On the appointed time of the year, that village will festoon the streets with statues and banners dedicated to the saint, and throughout the entire week, locals and tourists turn up in droves to enjoy the festivities.
Food stalls line the streets serving everything from hot dogs to traditional fare. Try some mqaret - deep fried date cakes. These are sinfully delicious and a bag full will set you back less than 2 Euros. Another artisanal treat is nougat. You’ll find many selling this favourite treat known as qubbajt in Maltese. Sellers normally have dark wooden stalls with antique weighing scales to serve the sugary treat.
Band marches are an integral part of the celebration. The local band performs festa favourites, many of which will be composed by local maestros. As they march through the streets and towards the church, the crowds often follow behind.
The ceremonial highlight of any festa is the carrying of the statue. Festa devotees bid for the privilege of hoisting the statue out of the church and onto a prominent place in the village square. This is usually accompanied by a roaring crowd cheering them on.
If the carrying of the statue is a ceremonial highlight, the crowd-pleasing favourite has to be the fireworks displays. Malta is well known for its pyrotechnic ability, and nowhere is this better showcased than the village feast. The shows normally involve murtali, which are petards that make an exceptionally loud bang when airborne, colourful fireworks that light up the night sky, and ġigġifogu or pinwheels – elaborate structures that produce dazzling spinning displays of sound and colour.