Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Celebrating the Festa of St. George in Qormi, Malta

24

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

While the world revels in excitement over the birth of Prince George, I thought I’d share photos of another George: St. George, venerated dragon-slayer and one of the patron saints of Qormi, Malta.

Each summer, Malta explodes with festas — celebrations of the patron saints of each town. Each town has its own festa, or sometimes multiple festas if they have multiple patron saints. People celebrate with processions, music, and confetti, and fireworks cover the island for the better part of the summer.

Some days we fell asleep to midnight fireworks and we were woken up by another round at 8:00 the next morning!

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

And yet these festas are so different from the saints’ feasts that I’ve been to in Italy and Boston’s North End. Nothing even comes close to Malta.

Mario’s friends Alex and Marika invited us to the town of Qormi (OR-mi) to experience the festa of St. George. I soon learned that we were massively underdressed — festas are the prime time of year to see and be seen. The Maltese put on their best outfits and get their hair done.

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

I spent the afternoon taking picture after picture of the dolled-up locals walking down to the square — but got quickly instructed by Mario and Alex to wait until it got dark and the real photogenic moments presented themselves.

They weren’t lying. It got photogenic pretty fast.

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

Qormi was lit up along the saint’s route, covered with bright lights, angel statues, and red and gold banners. And the church?

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

Every edge of the church was covered in lights.

Windows in Qormi were filled with icons of St. George entangling with the dragon.

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

Soon we found the procession. A group of men dressed in white carried a heavy wooden statue of St. George, carrying it several steps before pausing to rest.

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

During the whole time, onlookers threw confetti from the tops of the roofs.

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

Festas are some of Mario’s fondest memories from his childhood in Malta. He loved running around and playing in the confetti.

I imagined he had as much joy in his face as this girl had in hers:

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

We soon headed into the church to see St. George arrive. Remember what I said about Maltese churches? Check this one out.

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

That is one of the two official churches of a town with a population of less than 20,000. No expense was spared. The Maltese consider it both an honor and a duty to donate money to the local church, and as a result, they have incredibly ornate interiors dripping in gold.

In fact, a Maltese lady won the lottery a few decades ago and donated a portion of her winnings toward buying a gold halo for St. George. Does that sound crazy? Not to the Maltese. This would be expected.

Soon, St. George was brought into the church to great fanfare. People clapped, cheered and sang.

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

He was nestled into his little alcove, where he will remain for the rest of the season.

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

And with that, the evening came to an end. The music shut down, the street vendors closed, and the only confetti remaining was that which covered the streets. It was an evening I’ll never forget.

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

If any festas are taking place during your time in Malta — and especially festas taking place in small towns — I highly, highly recommend you go experience them for yourself.

A few days later, we went to the Festa of the Sacred Heart in Sliema, a big city that is one of the most popular tourist areas, and while it was lovely, it was a completely different experience. It didn’t feel old-fashioned or intimate — or special.┬áIn Qormi, I felt like I was part of the community and sharing a secret; in Sliema, I was just another gawking tourist.

Do try to experience a Maltese festa. They really are like nothing else in the world.

Essential Info: The Festa of St. George in Qormi takes place on the last Sunday in June. The Festa of St. Sebastian, Qormi’s other patron saint, takes place on the third Sunday in July.

For a full calendar of Malta’s festas, check out this page.

Have you ever been to a celebration like this?

Comments

24 Responses to “Celebrating the Festa of St. George in Qormi, Malta”
  1. I am blown away by every single one of these pictures. Photogenic indeed! Any celebration with that much confetti and fireworks looks good in my book. I’ve never been to a celebration quite like this one, but I was in Rome for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. I was living right by the Vatican, so you can imagine how excited people were for it. It was like a huge block party, complete with lots of Shakira’s music, which I was just not expecting. Haha.

  2. Nicole says:

    That is a really awesome church. I’m not big on religion, but European churches blow me away in how ornate and grand they are.

  3. Those photos are just so atmospheric. Malta is definitely up on my places to visit!

    It’s been lovely following your journey!

  4. I absolutely love these photos! And someday I hope to see a Maltese festa… looks like so much fun.

  5. Naomi says:

    What a great, unique experience! The photos look spectacular Kate!

  6. Amanda says:

    Sounds like a really cool experience, and your photos capture it all so well!

  7. Karisa says:

    The night time festa looks absolutely magical! The girl throwing the confetti is my favorite picture–it shows pure joy and celebration! What a special celebration with your fiance :)

  8. A festa dedicated to a dragon slayer? God, Malta is so badass :)

    • Proud says:

      Your talking about Saint George. Mind your language. Don’t worry we don’t need any badass like you to come to Malta.

  9. Chantal says:

    Hi Kate! I just discovered your blog when your twitter handle came up in my list of suggested “Who to follow”. So glad it did, because I love your blog!

    I also write a travel blog, although not in the league that yours in in! Feel free to drop by and tel me what you think: http://www.thewolfwilltravel.com

    I have just clicked “follow”, and am so looking forward to your upcoming adventures!

    Love from Paris!
    Chantal

  10. This looks like such a fabulous experience! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a church covered in lights before like that. So festive. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous!

  11. Naomi says:

    Seeing a festa was one thing I missed in Malta – but they sound so crazy fun! Next time. Yes.

  12. Tanja Cilia says:

    This is the first time I’ve read ‘badass’ used in connection with a festa… and come to think of it…it fits. Greetings from Malta. And of course… thiss went on my Facebook wall.

  13. Jack Kent says:

    This one is another awesome blog. The photos are perfect. Looks like it’s a beautiful place to visit. I’m not into religion but would love to celebrate the festa of St. George since it looks fun and exciting.

  14. Edmond Apap says:

    Dear Kate

    I would like to thank you for sharing this splendid article and excellent photos on our beloved parish and feast dedicated to Saint George.

    Best regards

    Edmond Apap, Qormi – Malta

  15. St George’s Day is of course also celebrated in the UK (so in Malta it is probably a remnant from colonial times), however the Brit’s celebrations tend to involve less cultural celebrations and more beer drinking. ;-)

  16. noel says:

    wow, there’s nothing like being in a destination when there is a local festival, it looks amazing, I love local parades it’s the best opportunity to photograph something truly unique.

  17. Carmeline Mangion says:

    The little girl trying to catch the confetti is my daughter. Her aunt saw it and sent me the link. Great picture. Thanks.

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