One of the busiest times of the summer tourist season gets underway next week in Gozo – with celebrations for the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, also known as Santa Marija.
Thousands are expected to visit the island to enjoy the celebrations in Victoria, which attracts many Maltese and tourists.
Tourist accommodation and local business across Gozo, are all looking forward to the increase in business, which promises bumper bookings with the extra visitors.
The Santa Marija Feast is also being celebrated in seven villages in Malta: Attard, Dingli, Ghaxaq, Gudja, Mosta, Mqabba and Qrendi.
The 76th anniversary of the arrival of the Santa Marija convoy, is also commemorated on Wednesday. This convoy saved Malta from surrender when the allied convoy of food and fuel reached the islands on the 15th of August 1942, despite the heavy bombardment inflicted by German and Italian planes and the sinking of many of the ships.
Santa Marija celebrations for Tuesday and Wednesday will be as follows:
Tuesday – External celebrations11:00am Children’s Parade with the grand flag that flies on the Leone Band Club, which leaves from the Citadel to the Leone Band Club in Republic Street.
5:30pm Leone Band will march from Independence Square to the Citadel, this will be accompanied by a spectacle of daylight fireworks from Gelmus Hill.
9:30pm Grand triumphal march by the Leone Band and the St Sebastian Band of Qormi, entertaining thousands of revellers and supporters along Republic Street. Fireworks will open and close the evening – the closing fireworks will be after midnight.
Wednesday – Feast day of Santa Marija
9:00am Solemn high Mass presided by the Bishop of Gozo at the Cathedral with the participation of choir and orchestra
11:00am Traditional band march will get underway through the streets of Victoria, with the 12th May Band of Zebbug Malta and the St Joseph Band Hal-Ghaxaq.
2:30pm Horse racing in Republic Street.
The Grand Finale of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, also known as Santa Marija, will be celebrated in Victoria in the evening.
6:45pm Solemn procession with the Santa Marija statue (1896). The Leone Band performs the cantata in honour of Our Lady “Per La Festa Di Maria Assunta In Cielo” (1913) to start the procession, which makes its way through the old streets of the city’s historic centre, with the participation of the Gozo Cathedral Chapter, Parish Clergy, the Leone Band, and the Chorus Ecclesiae Cathedralis.
The Victory Band of Xaghra and St Joseph Band of Ghajnsielem, play marches and musical programmes in Independence Square and Cathedral Square respectively
Spectacular coloured fireworks are let off during the 4-hour procession.
9:00pm The Santa Marija statue is welcomed in lower Palm Street by the Franciscan Nuns who sing a cappella the Salve Regina in Gregorian plainchant from the terraces of their monastery.
There will be a grand fireworks display on Gelmus Hill at 10pm before the entry of the statue of Our Lady into the Cathedral at 10.30pm, which will be welcomed back to the Cathedral Square and into the Cathedral en flambeaux.
Other events taking place to celebrate the feast is the Wirja tal-Biedja u Snajja – the traditional agricultural and industrial exhibition, at the Villa Rundle Gardens in Victoria. Heritage Malta will also be offering free admission to its museums and sites at the Citadel, as well as the Cittadella Visitors’ Centre, to celebrate the Feast Day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.