Victory Day: The Story Behind Malta's Most Eventful Holiday In History
From St. Mary to World War II
Jum il-Vitorja or Il-Bambina commemorates not one, but four important events in Maltese history. Malta loves a feast, and this one's no exception, reigning as one of the most important festas around. However let’s first start off by why it’s called Il-Bambina.
The feast originally celebrates the Virgin Mary's nativity, and needless to say, local parishes go all out. Altars are dressed in lavish garlands, red damask is hanged all over the place and the most beautiful ornaments are put out on display. Towns are decorated and local bands fill the streets with joyous marches. Throughout Malta's long and tumultuous history however, it became known as 'Our Lady of Victories' - and for good reason.
The date holds a special place in the annals of Maltese history, for it marks the defeat of the Ottoman invaders during the Great Siege of 1565, and the victory over the French in 1800. The 8th of September also marks the switch Italy made from the Axis to the Allied forces in 1943 which would prove vital to Malta's survival.
Turning the clock back a few centuries, the Great Siege was also a big deal for the Maltese. The bloodbath experienced during this war was on a level locals had never witnessed before, and Ottoman victory was all but an absolute certainty. Assistance was provided to the Maltese on the 7th of September, resulting in a major setback for the Ottomans.
On the other hand when the French invaded our country two centuries later, the Maltese had already endured a number of injustices such as the looting of the churches, so when the locals fought off the invaders with the help of the British, it was seen as a local victory (even though they technically kicked out the French three days prior the actual Bambina celebrations).
In the Second World War, Mussolini devised Operation Hercules. His aims included cutting off supply routes to Malta in an effort to take over the islands. Add to this, a blitz of bombs and air raids continuously pommelling the islands made Malta one of the most heavily-bombed places in WWII.
That jump Italy made to join the Allies? The near constant bombardment by the Italian forces all came to a halt, and Operation Hercules was deemed a failure, the Italians surrendered on the 8th of September — which happened to be the Great Siege’s anniversary.
So as you can see this festa is quite a big deal for our islands both historically and religiously.