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A Guide to the Public Holidays in Malta
The island nation of Malta has the most public holidays in the European Union. These hold both national and religious importance to Malta as they commemorate historical events, including the birth of the Church in Malta, the departure of Malta’s colonisers, Christianity in Malta and other significant moments. The dates are the following:
1st January – New Year’s Day
One week after Christmas Day comes New Year’s Day. Many ring in the new year by attending street parties in the capital, paid events across Malta or private parties. On New Year’s Day itself, families gather for lunch, or just sleep in.
10th February – St. Paul’s Shipwreck
This national holiday is especially important as it celebrates Malta’s patron saint, St. Paul.
Who is St. Paul and why is he so important to the Maltese?
In the year 60 AD, St. Paul had stopped in Malta thanks to a shipwreck and stayed here for three months. During his visit, he was bitten by a poisonous snake while starting a fire, and the islanders were shocked at how he remained well. Afterwards, he had healed the father of an official, which led to many coming to Paul to receive healing.
Religious ceremonies are held at the Church of St. Paul Shipwrecked in Valletta, or ‘San Pawlu Nawfragu’ in Maltese, which is one of the oldest Churches in Valletta. Following the mass, processions are held where the statue of St Paul is carried around the capital city.
19th March – Feast of St. Joseph
The 19th of March, or Feast of St. Joseph, has been celebrated as early as the 10th Century.
Certain workplaces in Malta also consider it as Corporate Social Responsibility Day, where employers across the islands spend the day helping their local communities.
Festivities mainly occur in Mdina and Rabat, including processions and music by band clubs. As with many other Maltese holidays, a fireworks display takes place at the end of the day across different parts of Malta.
31st March – Freedom Day
Freedom Day is the anniversary of the departure of the final British troops and naval units within Malta in 1979. Moreover, it marks the day when Malta was no longer a military base of foreign power for the first time in a millennium.
This national holiday is celebrated with a competitive regatta at the Grand Harbour in Valletta, which draws thousands of spectators and participants.
Freedom Day monuments in Malta:
- Left – Zejtun
- Right – Birgu
7th April – Good Friday
Malta is a Catholic country for the most part, thus its people consider Jesus’ crucifixion and death to be of utmost importance. Many make sacrifices such as the avoidance of meat consumption and fasting.
Good Friday is markedly an important day for the Church – many businesses such as supermarkets and shops close, and locals attend processions where statues representing the Passion of Christ are carried. Moreover, people also visit seven churches where they take a mediative journey to pray and worship Christ.
This year, Good Friday for the Catholic Church will take place on the 7th of April 2023. Easter Sunday will occur on 9th April 2023.
1st May – Worker’s Day
Workers’ Day is an international holiday which celebrates the economic and social accomplishment of workers around the world. Not to mention, it also coincides with the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker and even more, the anniversary of Malta joining the European Union in 2004.
Multiple celebrations are held for these occasions, including political rallies to celebrate the workers as well as festivities at the Birkirkara parish church to honour St. Joseph.
7th June – Sette Giugno
One day in 1919, while Malta was still under British rule, prices of grain, flour and bread rose a lot. Consequently, the Maltese went out to riot and were later regarded as heroes as four Maltese rioters were shot dead by the British forces. To this end, one can say that they died supporting their country.
This national holiday was given an Italian name due to the prominence of the Italian language back then.
29th June – St. Peter & St. Paul or Imnarja
As aforementioned, St Paul is Malta’s Patron saint. Him together with St. Peter are regarded as the two main Apostles responsible for the spreading of Christianity at the beginning of the First Century.
Moreover, the 29th of June is a celebration of Christian faith amongst the Maltese. Although it is recognised in other Roman Catholic countries, no other one celebrates it as much as Malta.
It is also called l-‘Imnarja’, a Maltese word derived from the Italian ‘luminaria’, meaning ‘festival of light’, where people light candles and set bonfires.
The main events take place in the town of Rabat, which include the consumption of traditional dishes such as rabbit, musical performances, horse riding, and dancing.
15th August – Santa Marija
One of the most highly anticipated public holidays by the Maltese is the Assumption of Our Lady. This year, it will take place on a Tuesday.
This feast is rather important in the Catholic world – it commemorates Mother Mary’s departure from this Earth, and the assumption of Her body into Heaven.
It is extra special for the Maltese because it marks the anniversary of the Santa Marija convoy going into the Second World War. In short, five merchant ships with essential supplies such as food arrived at the Grand Harbour on this date in 1942 – 80 years ago!
Several towns in Malta and Gozo organise ‘festi’, where you can hear church bells, watch processions, musical performances by band clubs as well as firework displays.
In September, Malta celebrates two Public Holidays; Victory Day and Independence Day. Both Public Holidays have a significance for Malta and are celebrated around Malta.
8th September – Victory Day
The Feast of Our Lady of Victories, or ‘Otto Settembre’, is considered a national holiday. In short, this marks the nativity of Our Lady.
Not only is it a religious feast, but it also celebrates the end of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. In addition, the 8th of September commemorates the victory of the Maltese people over the French invaders in 1800. Finally, it recalls Malta’s prowess against the Axis Bombing campaign during World War II.
21st September – Independence DayThe 21st of September in 1964 was the day that Malta became independent from its British colonisers. It is celebrated with grandiose as it is so important. On this occasion, parades, festivals, cultural events, and musical performances are held across the islands of Malta and Gozo. The following Sunday, there are usually ‘In Guardia Parades’, which are historical re-enactments where actors are dressed and act like the Knights of St. John. Such events take place at Fort St. Elmo in Valletta.
December and January are rather important months in Malta; not only because Christmas is celebrated, but there are religious and national holidays which hold a lot of importance for Malta.
8th December – Immaculate Conception
This is the last out of the three holidays dedicated to Holy Mary throughout the year. In addition, it is one of the holidays in Malta leading up to Christmas. This day celebrates the Catholic belief that Our Lady was free of original sin throughout her life.
Locals typically celebrate by attending Mass as required by the Church, go Christmas shopping, or spend time with their families and friends.
13th December – Republic Day
Whilst Malta was still under British Rule, the country was ruled by a monarchy. In 1974, Malta became a Republic, and this day is one out of 5 national holidays.
Festivities include an Awards Ceremony by the President of Malta, a wreath laying ceremony near several monuments including the Republic Day monument in Marsa, military parades in both Marsa and Valletta, and the Annual Band Concert at the Manoel Theatre in Valletta.
25th December – Christmas Day
Like in many other countries, the 25th of December is considered a public holiday. Malta is particularly known for its religious and social importance of Christmas. People traditionally attend midnight mass, churches hold processions with statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph throughout the streets, and locals decorate their houses with cribs, Christmas trees and wreaths.
How else do we celebrate Christmas?
During the festive season, schools organise Christmas plays, groups of people visit hospitals and retirement homes to sing Christmas carols, and many attend the annual Christmas pantomimes that take place. Numerous events take place throughout the islands – read last year’s blog post.
Focus on Fluency
- Religious (adjective) – relating to or believing in a religious
- Immaculate (adjective) – free from sin
- Conception (noun) – the action of conceiving a child or of a person being conceived
- Original Sin (noun) – the evil a person is born with, based on the story of Adam and Eve
- Monarchy (noun) – a form of government which has a monarch as the head, such as a queen, king, or emperor
- Republic (noun) – a state whose power is in the hands of the people, and has a president rather than a monarch
- Wreath (noun) – an arrangement of flowers or leaves in a circle, often used as decoration or for laying on a grave
- Cribs (noun) – a model of the Nativity of Christ, which consists of a manger for a bed
- Pantomimes (noun) – a form of theatre which includes music, jokes and slapstick comedy based on a fairy tale, usually performed at Christmastime
- Ring in the new year (idiom) – to celebrate the beginning of the new year.
Commemorate (v) – mark or celebrate (an event or person) by doing something
Patron saint (n) – the guiding saint of a place
Colonisers (n) – people who settle among and establish political control over the indigenous people of an area
Shipwreck (n) – the destruction of a ship at sea by sinking or breaking up, for example in a storm or after striking a rock
Official (n) – a person holding public office or having official duties, especially one representing the government
Processions (n) – a number of people moving forward in an orderly fashion, especially as part of a ceremony
Corporate (adj) – relating to a large company or group
Regatta (n) – a sporting event consisting of a series of boat or yacht races
Crucifixion (n) – an ancient form of execution in which a person was nailed or bound to a cross
Meditative (adj) – relating to meditation or considered thought
Coincides (v) – takes place at the same time as another event
Rioters (n) – people who take part in a riot or violent public disturbance
Highly anticipated (adverb and adjective collocation) – an event that many people look forward to, which people expect will be very good
- Victory (noun) – an act of defeating an enemy or opponent in a battle
- Independence (noun) – the fact or state of being free from anyone’s control
- Significance (noun) – importance, the quality of being worthy of attention
- Nativity (noun) – the occasion of a person’s birth
- Siege (noun) – a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, removing essential supplies, where those inside it must resist the enemy
- Commemorates (verb) – to mark or celebrate (an event or person) by doing something
- Prowess (noun) – bravery in battle
- Colonisers (noun) – countries where settlers are sent and have political control over them
- Grandiose (adjective) – impressive and imposing in appearance or style, often pretentiously
- Re-enactments (noun) – the acting out of a past event
- Simultaneously (adverb) – at the same time
Since its launch eighteen years ago, thousands of people flock to Birgu Fest which has increasingly gained popularity amongst both locals and tourists alike, raising to the level of a national event.
The ESE Teen & Junior programme returns this Autumn from the 30th September until the 4th November! Here’s why this will be the best option for your child during their Autumn holidays.
While in Malta, you can enjoy a variety of delicious dishes that reflect the island’s rich culinary heritage.