For a true taste of Malta, visit one of their many festas or feasts. Held in towns and villages all across the Malta, these lively and welcoming events are based on traditions that go back to the late 1700s and are a well loved custom among both locals and tourists. Usually involving a street parade, music and fireworks, this tradition originated as a way of celebrating the patron saint of each town or village. The festive atmosphere makes most festas an exhilarating and exciting place to be and the celebrations generally last all day.
Traditionally, most festas would begin with a ceremony that involves a statue of the local patron saint being carried out of the church before being brought back in to cheers and applause later in the day. Though unofficial celebrations do continue in bars around larger towns and villages, the official Feast ends when the statue is returned to the church. Unlike many traditional religious ceremonies, the Maltese Village Feast is not a sombre affair and can often be quite raucous. Many bars, restaurants and night clubs will host smaller parties or events in honour of the Festa and street food is often available from temporary market stalls that are erected just for the day. These days, all kinds of fast food is available but traditionally, sweets were the main attraction, and unique but delicious pastries and dessert items like Kannoli, Helwa tat-Tork and Imqaret have become favourites.
There is a huge amount of preparation that goes in to a Festa and the churches themselves are generally covered in lights and ornate decorations. There will usually be several performances of traditional music played by the local village band. Though these feasts are technically still considered religious celebrations, alcohol, food and dancing are common place and the party atmosphere lasts long in to the night, especially in larger towns. Colourful, loud and boisterous, the atmosphere is upbeat, positive and friendly.
Generally taking place between May and September, though there are some that fall outside of this period as there are over 60 Festas that occur during the year. The most famous is the Feast of Assumption, which celebrates saint Mary and lasts for the full second week of August. This is a particularly large and ornate Maltese Feast and involves parades, marching bands and live concerts. There are 9 villages that celebrate this feast during that week, so you can wonder how much activity is on the island. These villages host their main celebration events around this time and many tourists flock to mix with the locals during this exciting and colourful celebration. Culminating in a spectacular firework display that is often set to music, the Feast of Assumption has become incredibly popular and visiting the islands around this time of year will generally mean the streets are quite busy. Mqabba and Lija are two of these 9 villages which are renowned for their fireworks display.
If you want to sample sweet treats, enjoy the fireworks or just soak up the party atmosphere, visiting during the Summer months is usually the best option. Depending on where you go, some Maltese Feasts can be quite competitive and intense, especially among smaller rival villages. This is usually done in a good natured way, though and providing you keep your wits about you and enter in to the spirit of the day, visiting a Festa can be an incredible experience.