Featured photo via Chevron
Rio has Mardi Gras, London has Notting Hill Carnival and Malta has Ħaż-Żabbar’s Festa Weekend. Like the other street parties in question, Żabbar is celebrating for a good reason. The Southern town spends all year counting down to the first Sunday after the 8th of September, where they celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Graces. And boy do they celebrate. The last big festa of the year is well known for its size and all-round effort, they take their celebrations very seriously, resulting in a huge blowout party where everyone is welcome to get involved. Here are just a few reasons you should get down to Żabbar’s festa this weekend and see for yourself.
1. The size
To put it simply, Żabbar’s festa is huge. Not only is it Żabbar Malta’s 6th largest town, with a population of over 15,000 residents, it also attracts festa–goers in search of a good time from the whole of the Maltese islands. Tour companies even organise day and night trips to Żabbar’s festa for holidaymakers to visit the spectacular happenings, and it gets bigger every year!
Image via MMG Promotions
2. The atmosphere
It’s a well-know fact that Żabbar has not one but two banda clubs, resulting in a strong sense of competition between the two sides. This means that they try hard to outdo eachother each year, giving their absolute all to be the best of the best. They go hard, putting on a great show with infectious enthusiasm, making for a fantastic party atmosphere for all. Two band clubs means two brass band marches, and twice as much fun!
Image via Chevron Holidays
3. The history
If you delve into the history of Ħaż-Żabbar, you’ll be surprised at how much there is to be discovered. Locals take pleasure in relaying the history of their beloved hometown, which has seen so much action over the years! Żabbar has taken its place in the history books for its involvement in Malta’s rich past, from The Great Siege, to the Uprising against the French all the way to the British Era, and more recently the Vulcan plane crash of 1975. There’s even a cannonball still lodged into the facade of a house in Żabbar. How’s that for historical!
4. The decorations
Nowhere on Earth does festa decorations like Żabbar—they absolutely excel in them. In fact, they win awards for their decorations, and the town holds the title for the two biggest festa umbrellas in Malta, which pretty much means the biggest festa umbrellas in the whole world. The Società Filarmonica Maria Mater Gratiæ’s has the number one spot, and their record breaking show-stopper of a banda canopy is a spectacle in itself, adorned with paintings celebrating the society on the umbrella’s exterior.
Image via MMG Promotions
5. The art
Everywhere you look is a feast for the eyes, but make sure to get a peek at the stunning artworks that adorn Żabbar’s parish church. It is definitely worth going to The Żabbar Sanctuary Museum if you can tear yourself away from the celebrations, where you can find all sorts of artefacts, most of which have a religious or seafaring nature. Look out for the ex-voto paintings, which were gifts given as offerings to Our Lady of Graces by members of the Order of St John.
Image via TVM
6. The culture
Żabbar is a true testimony to the sacred traditions the Maltese have upheld throughout the centuries, and hung onto with devout enthusiasm. With an ever-evolving Malta getting more and more modern by the day, visiting a festa like Żabbar’s really helps to bring home a sense of undiluted Maltese culture. The festa of Our Lady Of Graces highlights our distinct Maltese identity—old skool Catholicism with a party-loving twist.
7. The venues
The whole of Żabbar comes alive for the festa, including the ‘blue’ band club’s open-air Art Deco theatre, which is turned into ‘The Blue Arena’ for the occasion, hosting everything from classical music concerts to gala dinners to the all important after-party following the march! Of course, both każini will be decked out to the nines in celebratory embellishments, looking their absolute best adorned with rich fabrics and ornate baroque-style carvings.
Photo by Sean Mallia
8. The food
Żabbar’s is the last huge celebration of the festa season, so it’s the last chance for the island’s kiosks to cash in. This is great news for festa-goers, which means that there’ll be every sort of junk food imaginable on offer. Burgers, cheap and cheerful greasy “Chinese” food, imqaret, vodka slushes… you name it, they’ve got it. Go wild this weekend while you still can, and throw your diet to the wind—it might be the last time you see freshly spun candyfloss and traditional nougat stalls for a whole year!
Image via Greedy Sisters
9. The bike pilgrimage
Our Lady of Graces is actually the Patron Saint of Cycling, so bike enthusiasts from all across Malta and Gozo get involved in what’s become a yearly tradition, il-Pellegrinaġġ tar-Roti u Muturi—a pilgrimage of hundreds and hundreds of cyclists and bikers that make their way down from Rabat all the way to Żabbar. The fun thing about the bike pilgrimage is that you’ll find all sorts of bikes, from vintage Lambrettas to Harley Davidsons, to tinny old scooters and even antique sidecars!
Image via Times of Malta
10. The church
Żabbar’s parish church—the stunning Madonna tal-Grazzja—is a sight to behold year-round, but when decked out in hundreds of colourful lights it really does take your breath away. Facing the church is Sanctuary Street, which is one of the largest streets leading up to a church in the whole of Malta, so there’s ample viewing space for the crowds to pack in and admire the awesome views of the glittering fireworks lighting up the sky in the background of the storybook-like architecture.
Image via www.Malta.com
11. The Ż Factor
It’s all about passion! The people of Żabbar, proud Żabbarin, are totally head over heels dedicated to their festa and their Patron Saint, so the vibe something that you just can’t imitate. The feast of Our Lady of Graces is sure to give any festa newcomer a real taste of authentic Maltese life, so be sure to get down there and celebrate with a Cisk or ten at one of Malta’s most extravagant street parties. See you there!
Image via Chevron Holidays