Summer months in Malta are not only
characterised by the heat but also by the feasts which are celebrated in various towns and villages in Malta and Gozo nearly every weekend. The village feast is considered as the most important annual
event of the village. One can say that the rhythm and the programme of the village focuses on the festa.
Initially it was the church who actually gave rise to the village festa. All parish churches are dedicated to a particular saint. The church started to celebrate the feast of the saint on its liturgical calendar day with a solemn high mass, vespers and a procession. Originally the procession through the streets of the village started with a relic of the saint and then when the economic situation of the village residents improved, a need for a statue of the saint ensued.
Eventually a small band was commissioned and other people took the initiative to work and exhibit some pyrotechnics which gradually developed in an artistic array of colours. This fantastic display improves every year giving great satisfaction and pride to dedicated and hard working people. In mentioning this, one should always be considerate and keep in mind the sick and the elderly of the village with regards to excessive noise.
So what started as a very modest religious feast gradually grew and reached professional high levels. For this reason churches were more expensively and extensively decorated, fraternities and associations were encouraged, band clubs were established and fireworks factories were developed. Nowadays feasts include a mixture of religious, cultural, historical and folklor characteristics.
Preparation for village feasts involve a lot of time, energy, effort, money and people. They also generate commerce among food and drink vendors especially those selling the traditional seasonal sweet, the local nougat, known as il-qubbajt.
People from all walks of life and different fields of expertise come together to collaborate for the success of the event, ‘which always has to be better than the previous year and if possible on a much larger scale than that of our next door neighbour’.
The parish priest, the mayor of the town, the president of the band club, the music director, the president of the fireworks factory, the police inspector and all the other leaders have to pool together to ensure the success of the feast. Everyone has a role and a
responsibility to shoulder. When all the involved stakeholders participate in a collaborative manner in this common aim, the feast will be a success for all to enjoy.
The feast day is always time for the family to meet and most of the times to have lunch together. It is also time to socialise especially with those whom one has not seen for ages.
It is the time to coordinate volunteers to carry out specific duties. In fact, months before the feast the organisers start the door to door collection for funds. In Maltese these
collections are known as ir-rakkolta or l-arbural.
Above all, one cannot concentrate only on exterior decorations and activities. Unfortunately, nowadays the focus is shifting to the traditional Sunday morning band march, known as il-marċ ta’ filghodu. In preparation for the feast, i.e. during the kwindicina
(15 days before the feast day), or the novena (9 days before) or the tridu (3 days before) the Church offers us ample food for thought in its sermons and panygerics to reflect on the significance and exemplary life of the titular saint. It would be a missed opportunity and a senseless celebration without delving into the lives of saints and discover the call we have for holiness. This reality invites parish priests to be innovative and creative in presenting the lives of saints in an appealing and relevant way to the congregation.
Furthermore, in these celebrations the church offers to the community at large, a patrimony of sacred music and exhibit a number of silver items and artistic treasures which are unique to our country. This rich patrimony is an attraction for both tourists and locals, leaving visitors speechless at such awesome heritage.
The village feast is an important yearly event, because it is time for celebration as a community to which we belong. The community encourages sharing, support, care and love for each other. Definitely it should not be the time for tension, pique and stress but time to be joyful and merry. Hence, it is very appropriate that during the village feast the community also thinks of marginalised members and offers them some assistance, whether monetary or in any other kind way to alleviate their needs. One hopes that village feasts will continue to foster peace, joy and serenity in our communities and also makes us more aware and appreciative of our patrimony left to us by our forefathers.
© 2019 – VIDA Magazine