Traditions and customs only the locals would understand in Malta

1) Boċċi

The word boċċi means marbles, but in Malta this refers to an old street game that is played with wooden balls in various sizes. This is a game for all seasons, and there is also a national league with different village clubs. In summer boċċi is a popular pastime, to be played with neighbours, usually in the evening and mostly near the sea. There are a number of courts all around the islands, where you can see people practicing and playing this game.

people playing a game of Bocci in Malta

Sludge G (Flickr)

Triq il-Kunvent, Żabbar

2) Festa

The Maltese festa or village feast is the main event of the year in many communities. More than just a religious procession, these local feasts are a celebration and demonstration of pride, with villagers lavishly decorating their church and streets and organising various festive events throughout the feast week. It is also an opportunity to visit the churches, as many cultural treasures are usually on display. The Feast of St Lawrence is celebrated on the 10th of August, with the city decked out with banners, flags and other street decorations. A must-see.

Festa celebration in Malta

Neville Borg

St Lawrence St, Vittoriosa

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3) Festa Fireworks

No Maltese feast is complete without a proper fireworks display. They usually start one week before the feast day and continue to increase in volume and output throughout the week, with the main event taking place on the eve of the feast day. This is held late in the evening so everyone can enjoy the colourful display. The fireworks at Mqabba are particularly impressive.

firework spectacle during Maltese Festa

Joseph Galea

Triq il-Konvoy ta’ Santa Marija, Mqabba

4) Mnarja Folk Festival

A traditional summer feast that has its origins in rural communities, where they celebrated summer and a good harvest. The feast is held in a woodland area called Buskett Gardens where the activities kick off on the eve of the 29th June. During the evening and throughout the night, people have a good time, eating the traditional rabbit stew and washing it down with local wine while singing folk tunes. The following day, a public holiday, there is an agricultural show and competition, with bareback horse races in the afternoon. A typical agricultural feast.

a boy holding a sheep at the Mnarja Folk Festival

Joseph Galea

at: Buskett Gardens, Siġġiewi

5) Statue bearers

The main attraction of any religious feast is a large statue of the patron saint, borne on the shoulders of eight or ten strong men. The statue is usually lavishly decorated, and heavy as well. The islanders sometimes fight for the honour to be one of the statue bearers and in one of the villages there is even an auction to determine who may carry the statue. The proceeds are usually donated to charity. In some towns, the title of statue bearer is handed down from father to son. It takes a lot of dedication and devotion to be a statue bearer.

traditional statue bearers at a Maltese festa

Joseph Galea

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