By Mary Charlebois
Maltese festivals, celebrations, festas, and things I can’t leave home without…
My heart is starting to flutter a bit when I think about boarding Virgin Atlantic Flight 42. Months of planning and penny pinching will soon pay off with a month in the middle of the Mediterranean Archipelago of Malta.
In my research, I’ve learned the Maltese love a good party. It seems there is a celebration or festival of some kind almost every week of the year. Best of all, these folks love fireworks. Most festivities include pyrotechnics.
I’ve perused calendars looking for celebrations taking place while I’m there. Here are a few of my ‘must-attend’ events.
Traditions: Wine, Olive Oil & Honey 2019 -L-Għarb, Gozo – September 21
Wine, olive oil, and honey. What else is needed for a delectable meal?
This event offers festival-goers, roasted pig, local foods, wine, olive oil, and honey tasting. I’m eager to try the sweets like olive oil flavored ice cream and traditional honey pastries.
L-Għarb is home to renowned craftsman—blacksmiths, locksmiths, cotton weavers, lace makers, carpenters and masters in cane-work. L-Għarb is known for talented fishermen. Area shepherds are said to produce the finest cheese on the Island.
Jum 1-Indipendenza (Independence Day) – Gozo & Malta – September 21
Parades, musical performances, and cultural events are presented all over Malta and Gozo. I was told, “There are far too many events to name. Just wander, you’ll find plenty of welcoming people celebrating in cities, towns, and villages.”
I’ll be on the island of Gozo on Independence Day. I may stay in my little village of Ghajnsielem. My loft apartment on the third floor has a perfect view across the channel to Malta. Fireworks from my terrace will be spectacular.
Malta gained independence from Great Britain in 1964. The day is celebrated with music, art, performance, food, and drink. Oh, did I mention fireworks?
Żejt iż-Żejtun – Żejtun, Malta – September 28/29
Żejtun’s name comes from the Sicilian Arabic for olive, zaytun. Each year in September, a celebration marks the start of olive-picking and oil pressing season.
Dressed in traditional attire, farmers bring olives to be blessed at the church. Drummers and flag bearers in medieval costumes, together with folk singers and dancers, will provide traditional music, singing, and dancing in celebration of a bountiful harvest. Maltese ftajjar (flatbread) dressed in freshly pressed olive oil is freely distributed for tasting.
Notte Bianca – Valletta, Malta – October 5
This extravagant celebration lights up Valletta every October. Notte Bianca is Malta’s most significant annual arts and culture festival. Festival-goers experience Malta’s finest music, dance, theatre, visual arts, literary events, and new digital arts.
Palaces and museums open their doors for visual art exhibitions and theatre performances. By the way, there will be fireworks.
Valetta is Malta’s capital and the heart of commerce. The two deepest natural harbors in the world have made it a center for trade and sometimes war throughout history.
Birgufest – Birgu, Malta – October 11—13
Birgufest is a celebration of culture and art. Birgu, also known as Vittoriosa, is one of Malta’s oldest and most historic cities. Adjacent to the Grand Harbor, it is considered one of the most picturesque locations on the island.
Birgufest visitors enjoy historical reenactments and dinner by candlelight in the town square. All the streets and houses are lit with candles, chandeliers hang in the streets, and music drifts along meandering pathways and narrow streets.
Festival-goers can also take in local artist’s exhibitions, music concerts; historical buildings and museums, Maltese food tasting, and more. No fireworks, it’s all by candlelight.
Fjakkolata – Gozo – October 13
I’ll roam the country roads of Gozo to see a spectacle of thousands of lanterns (fjakkoli). Once a year, Santa Luċija mesmerizes visitors with light.
The Fjakkolata started when there was no electricity. Fjakkoli were taken away from streets and lit on the nearby Għar Ilma hill, creating a spectacle every October.
In Santa Luċija Square, I’ll join in the celebration with locals dancing and singing. Food and libations from around the village are served in eateries and stalls on the streets.
Santa Luċija is home to the Chinese Garden of Serenity, opened in 1997, and an ancient underground temple discovered in 1973.
Village Festas (village feast) – Malta – September and October
Each year a village’s patron saint is celebrated with band music during the day and fireworks, drink and food in the evenings. Part religious and part revelry, each village hosts at least one feast each year.
I plan to celebrate festas in the towns of, Żabbar, St. Augustine, Valletta, Santu Wistin Parish, and Gudja. I’ll join a snaking parade, photograph traditionally costumed performers, and dance to Maltese music. Let’s not forget the food, drinks, and fireworks.
I won’t leave home without**
Cash – Malta’s currency is the Euro. I’ll be using Travelex for currency exchange. I can order my Euros online and pick them up right before my flight at the Travelex exchange desk in San Francisco International. There is no charge for the online service, and you lock in the best exchange rate. If you prefer to receive your currency in advance of your flight, it can be shipped free of charge to your door.
You can go directly to the exchange counter in most international airports, but if you haven’t pre-ordered your cash, there is a service fee. When you return to your home airport, you can exchange any foreign currency you might have left. Yeah, like that will happen 😊.
A unisex bag that stands up to the road. In 2015 I bought my first Travelon handbag. This week I bought a new one. After four years of non-stop use, I’ve finally had to replace it. While still usable, it’s a bit tired and worn looking.
The bag is touted as anti-theft. It has a locking main compartment, slash-resistant body construction, and a slash-resistant adjustable shoulder strap that can be securely attached to post or chair. It has RFID blocking card slots, and a removable LED light. The size 12 x 14.5 x 1.5 inches is perfect for crossbody wear. The best feature of all, it’s not a black hole, the lining isn’t black, it’s light grey.
There are enough pockets, zippers, latches, and dividers to make an OCD gal like me very happy. The bag is TOUGH. I have traveled with it for thousands of miles. It’s been my everyday bag since I got it. I bought mine on Amazon for under $40.
Camera gear backpack – With a new camera and lenses, a durable, safe, and wearable camera bag is high on my list. I chose a Tarion brand. The kit will hold my DSLR body, three lenses, my video camera, laptop (a 17”), and all the chargers, spare batteries, filters, etc., etc.
Gear is safely stashed in padded adjustable compartments. The opening for your stash is against your back, but there is a handy side opening for quick access to the camera without removing the pack.
The bag isn’t light, about 3-pounds, but it’s worth the extra weight. It comes with a rain fly that can be used while wearing the pack. I love it. I bought the Tarion on Amazon for under $70.
Keeping it dry is always essential. I have two types of waterproof bags I use for boating or swimming. One is worn around the waist. I use it for money, ID, keys, etc. The other is worn around the neck and is intended for a Smartphone.
I can assure you they are waterproof. I was overturned in a canoe in England and thrown from a kayak in a California river. Both times my phone, money, keys, and ID were safe and dry after being underwater for some time. I got two dry pouches and two phone bags for under $30. I’d pay twice as much.
Got to start packing
Thanks for stopping by, MaryGo
Folks Helping Me Plan My Trip to Malta
~ Local Experts – Visit Malta – Malta Uncovered ~
~ Transport – Virgin Atlantic – Air Malta ~
~ Play – Headwater Walking Tours ~
~ Housing – Air B&B – Hotel Ta Cenc & Spa – Glamping Hub ~
~ Travel Insurance – Allianz ~
~ Currency Exchange – Travelex ~
*All photos courtesy of Visit Malta
**Product suggestions are not paid endorsements; I shopped and paid for them myself. The companies have no idea who I am.