Malta Diary A riot of colour in the night sky and on the ground – Malta’s unique festas
All good things come to an end. One of my former newspaper editors had another way of putting it when an event or a function was moving towards its terminal stage – it’s all over…bar the shouting.
Malta’s festa season has reached this stage for another year after the dramas of a riot of colour in the night sky and on the ground, reaching its peak in August with a stream of festive occasions.
I offer no excuses and no apologies for this week’s Diary showing brevity in wordage but a glut in colours. Pictures speak for themselves and no amount of literary effort can possibly describe or substitute for that perceived by the eyes.
I offer just a few explanations.
Festas, feasts and festivities of all kinds are the common heritage of every country but unique to each country. Take carnival – spread throughout the world but immediately conjuring up spectacles of Rio and San Remo – despite all the efforts of other localities, valid in their own right.
Fireworks displays are also a global manifestation, particularly around the New Year and one conjures up Sydney Harbour Bridge and Tower Bridge in London. Maltese parishes cannot compete in quantity but they can surely compete in quality, an astounding array of musically synchronised ground fireworks (a Malta speciality) and aerial displays.
The bulk of these have now shifted to the smaller villages of Mqabba and Qrendi, and to some extent Luqa, when in previous years the annual highlight was normally the display at Lija.
Ar Qrendi recently, three German pyro-technicians on holiday in Malta joined to give a helping hand and one expressed her astonishment at the magnificent array and said that back in Germany they cannot even begin to compete with such dedication and quality.
There are two other distinctive factors that make Maltese festas outstanding; the external street decorations and the particularly brilliant quality display at Vittoriosa (in Maltese known as ‘Birgu’, a corruption of the word ‘Borgo’ and the first base that the Knights of St John settled into on arrival at the start of the 16th Century) for the feast of St Lawrence on 10th August.
The other is brass band street marches with a riot of colour at Hamrun for the feast of San Gaetano and at Zabbar for the feast of Our Lady of Graces.
Rivalry and pique is endless and no matter how large or small, the same volume of per capita dedication and enthusiasm is very evident. A combination of solemn religious processions with beautifully manufactured statues, a myriad of street lights intricately displayed, street decor of banners, flags and an assortment of drapes, ground and aerial fireworks displays and band marches make the Maltese and Gozitan festa a surely unique occasion – hard to find anywhere else.
Needless to say alcohol and refreshing drinks flow freely and fast food and confectionery vendors do a bomb.
Let the pictures speak for themselves.