The Feast

On August 30, the celebrations of the Mellieha Village Festa officially start. The statue of Our Lady is taken out of its niche. The nine-day period called “in-Novena” starts, a period in which several religious functions are organized at church, preparing those who attend with a spiritual feeling for the feast.
As the expected date of September 8 approaches, several musical programs are organized by the Mellieha Band Clubs; the Imperial Band Club and the La Vittoria Philharmonic Society. These two band clubs organize several band marches around the streets of Mellieha. These marches are organized between September 2 – 7, and are accompanied by several supporters.
During the festa week, from September 1 – 8, the Mellieha Parish Square is full of activities. In the Parish Square and the nearby areas you can find mobile kiosks selling hot-dogs, ice-creams, burgers, kebabs, chips, and all sort of fast food. One must also mention the delicious “mqaret”. “Mqaret” are pastry stuffed with a concoction of dates fried in oil. The traditional Maltese nougat sellers are also present, selling several types of delicious nougats.
One of the biggest factors that makes the Maltese village festas so unique, is the colorful fireworks. The fireworks light up the Mellieha skies, creating a merrier feeling among the present people. From about three days before September 8, ground fireworks, Maltese “giggifogu” (derived from Italian “guochi di fuoco”), start to light up the Mellieha Parish Square, with amazing effects. The principal show of ground fireworks is held on September 7, a show which ends at about 12.00am.
The band march known as “Il-Marc ta’ Fil-Ghodu” (the Morning March) is perhaps the peak of the feast for most people, practically in all Maltese village feasts. The hot shining sun of September doesn’t scare the present people away. The march roars through the streets of Mellieha with teenagers and others who are young at heart celebrating and enjoying themselves in front of the band playing some well-known Maltese band marches.
In the evening, the peak of the Village Festa is reached. At about 7pm the Statue of Our Lady leaves the Mellieha Parish Church, and goes through the nearby streets, carried on shoulders, and followed by a large amount of people. At about 10pm, the Statue arrives in front of the band clubs, and each band executes the Hymn of Our Patron, and another Marian Hymn.
In the evening, the peak of the Village Festa is reached. At about 7pm the Statue of Our Lady leaves the Mellieha Parish Church, and goes through the nearby streets, carried on shoulders, and followed by a large amount of people. At about 10pm, the Statue arrives in front of the band clubs, and each band executes the Hymn of Our Patron, and another Marian Hymn.
By that time, the Festa comes to an end. The crowd sings the Hail Mary, or Ave Maria, before the Statue enters the Church. A beautiful fireworks show is held, with vivid colors gliding and bursting in the sky, glowing over the picturesque village of Mellieha, and reflecting in the calm waters of the Mellieha Bay, Malta’s biggest sandy beach.
To many “Mellehin”, September 9 means the “Xalata”, a day in which most people go to the beach and enjoy themselves. The “Xalata” is present in all Maltese Village Festas, and nowadays can be nearly considered as another holiday.

The Statue

The Statue of Our Lady of Victories was sculptured by the famous Maltese woodcarver Pietru Pawl Azzopardi. It was commissioned by the Mellieha Parish, and paid by Don Giuseppe Di Stefano. The Statue of Our Lady of Victories was carved out of a bark of a tree.

September 8

September 8 recalls some of the most important historic events from the glorious and eventful history of the Maltese Islands. The main celebration, apart from the religious feast celebrated in Mellieha, Naxxar, Senglea, and in Xaghra, Gozo, is the commemoration of the victory of the Knights of St John and the Maltese in the Great Siege over the Ottoman Turks in 1565. In fact, a commemorative ceremony is still held annually in Valletta, by the Great Siege Monument in front of the Courts. Nowadays, September 8 is considered as one of the five National Holidays on the Maltese Islands.
On September 8, other historic events like the capitulation of the French in 1800, and the siege of the Axis powers in 1943 are commemorated.
September 8 is also linked with a particular tradition: the colorful and keenly contested boat race or regatta, which is held at the Grand Harbour in the afternoon, with many Maltese people crowding the nearby Grand Harbour area to watch this event.
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    About the village of Mellieha

    Mellieha is a rural village and tourist resort in the Northwestern part of Malta and derives its name from the Semitic root 'm-l-h' which in Arabic means salt. The name was probably derived from the ancient Punic and Roman salt-terns; historians indicated as lying adjacent to the large sandy bay at the foot of the village.
    Mellieha has been inhabited since early Neolithic times (3000 B.C). Several megalithic remains and tombs of this era and other primitive tools and fragments of pottery were found in various localities around this area, primarily at "il-Latnija" - a natural cavity used by several stone-age peoples - and at l-Gholja tax-Xemxija.
    During the Roman and Byzantine occupations (213B.C- 870A.D.), Mellieha's valleys were inhabited by troglodytes, who irrigated the land, adopted natural caves as their dwelling places and buried their beloved ones in Punic style burial chambers. Following the Arab conquest and during the medieval period (870-1530A.D.), the area was deserted, primarily due to the continuous raids of the Muslim corsairs.
    Notwithstanding the hardship experienced by the Maltese during the Reign of the Order of St. John (1530-1798A.D.), Mellieha's medieval chapel, dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary, was one of the most venerated places on the island. Several distinguished persons, such as grandmaster's, kings and bishops visited the shrine and pilgrimages to the sanctuary from all over the island were held frequently.
    In the late 17th century, the Knights built several fortifications along the coast, so as to protect the inhabitants. This venture brought about the gradual repopulating of the area, mainly by those who wanted to exploit the fertile valleys and the new enterprise of tunny net fishing. Under the British, in 1844, Mellieha was established again as a parish and since then it grew up into a modern town, of circa 6,500 people.
    Today, Mellieha is one of Malta's most picturesque tourist destinations. The town centre boasts of its splendid hotels, fine restaurants and traditional cute shops. It has a unique primary school, a majestic baroque church (built in late 19th century) and various cultural organizations, including band clubs, sports clubs, an orchestra, various religious societies, a parish community centre and an environmental pressure group. Since 1993, local affairs are being run by the Mellieha Local Council, an institution made up of seven councilors, elected every three years by the people.
    Mellieha's main festive season occurs in the first two weeks of September and reaches its climax on the 8th September. During these days various cultural manifestations are held, such as musical concerts, fireworks, folk singing, art exhibitions and the traditional religious procession. The town's people, ''Il-Mellehin'', are renowned for their laborious nature, their ironic sense of humour, and their friendliness and hospitality. Those who visit us, no matter where they hail from, do not merely enjoy themselves but feel at home.

    As long as Mellieha preserves its great archaeological and historic heritage, its unique natural environment, and its traditions and costumes, its people, "Il-Mellehin", can look forward to a bright future.