Despite having just 30,000 inhabitants, the island of Gozo has two opera houses in Ir-Rabat , the Astra Theatre and the Aurora Opera House. Each puts on at least one fully staged opera a year, often with international soloists. Infact, this opera season is now a regular appointment for opera enthusiasts.
Christmas is a joyful time and Gozo steps up to celebrate. The town of Victoria and main village squares light up with decorations and there is a hustle and bustle around the island that heralds the festive event. Look out for beautiful choir singing and traditional cribs that reveal true craftsmanship. The traditional processions with the bambin Gesu’ are held in every village with the participation of children. Roam around Betlehem f’Għajnsielem where a whole area known as Ta’ Passi in the limits of Għajnsielem is transformed into a nativity village providing a cove where religion and local traditions intermingle. Check out the Christmas in Gozo’s brochure and embrace the Christmas spirit!
This April, Gozo will become a hub of activities in preparation for the Good Friday processions and pageants, which provide real life re-enactments of the life and passion of Christ. The pealing of church bells on Easter Sunday on the 21st April heralds the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. An exuberant mode prevails in some localities as groups of bearers wearing the kunfratija, gloriously lift the statue of Christ along the streets to the sound of lively band marches. These celebrations intertwine with local life and traditions and offer the visitor an authentic experience of Gozo.
A summer trip to Gozo would not be complete without a visit to a village festa. These are held between the last weekend in May and mid-September. Each town/village holds its annual feast dedicated to its Patron Saint. A typical ‘festa’ lasts three days or longer. The church and village are decorated with lights and bunting and the colourful festa statues of Saints stand outside the church. The main festa statue of the patron saint is paraded through the streets and local musicians provide extra support to the priest and choir in a special mass.
Gozitan Festas are not only religious in nature however and there is plenty of secular fun as well. Bands march through the streets of the village and fireworks light up the skies as crowds enjoy traditional as well as fast food from the many street stalls. Tourists are always welcome and joining a festa is a great way to get a real taste of local life.
Il-Munxar – Feast of St. Paul – last weekend in May. This festa kicks off the season with week-long celebrations of the shipwreck of St Paul on Malta in 60AD (as described in the bible).
L-Għasri – Feast of Christ the Saviour – includes horse racing along the street.
Għajnsielem – Feast of St. Anthony of Padua.
Il-Fontana – Feast of the Sacred Heart.
Ix-Xewkija – Feast of St. John the Baptist – on the Sunday before or after June 24. Includes not only marches but concerts by the local Prekursur brass band and horse racing on the streets.
In-Nadur – Feast of Saints Peter & Paul – on 29th June which is also a national holiday. Includes an agricultural and crafts show, horse race on the street and concerts the local Mnarja brass band.
L-Għarb – Feast of the Visit of Our Lady to St. Elizabeth – Includes not only marches but concerts by the local Viżitazzjoni brass band.
Ta’ Kercem – Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour – includes concerts as well as marches by the local San Girgor (St. Gregory) brass band.
Ir-Rabat – Feast of St. George – centred on St George’s Basilica just off the main square, this festa includes horse racing along Ir-Rabat (Victoria)’s main street and concerts by the local La Stella brass band. La Stella, officially called La Stella Philharmonic Society, is based in one of ir-Rabat (Victoria)’s two opera house/theatres, The Astra. This festa is one of two held in ir-Rabat (Victoria). The other is centred on the Cathedral and takes place on August 15.
Ta’ Sannat – Feast of St. Margaret the Martyr – includes concerts by the local St. Margerita (St. Margaret’s) brass band and horse racing on the street.
San Lawrenz – Feast of St. Laurence – San Lawrenz is the only village in Gozo to be named after its patron saint. The festa statue of the saint is a fine example made by Gallard et Fils of Marseilles and it arrived in San Lawrenz on 4th August 1895. The first feast was celebrated six days later and has been celebrated every year since, even at the height of the Second World War.
Il-Qala – Feast of St. Joseph – first Sunday of August. Includes not only marches but concerts by the local Ite ad Joseph brass band.
Ir-Rabat – Feast of St. Marija (St. Mary) – 15th August. Includes horse racing along the main street of the capital as well as the Agriculture and Industrial Show at the Villa Rundle. There are also concerts by the Leone brass band, officially called the Leone Philarmonic Society and based in the Aurora Theatre, one of ir-Rabat (Victoria)’s two opera houses-theatres. This is one of two festas in ir-Rabat (Victoria), the other is centred on the Basilica of St George and takes place in July.
Iż-Żebbuġ – Feast of St. Marija – on the first weekend following August 15. Includes not only marches but concerts by the local band Sta. Marija (St. Mary’s) Band as well as horse racing on the street.
Għajnsielem – Feast of Our Lady of Loreto – on the last Sunday of August. Includes not only marches but concerts by the local San Ġużepp (St. Joseph) brass band.
Ix-Xlendi – Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel – first Sunday in September. Apart from the marches and concerts, the festivities include the gostra, a diagonal pole along which competitors attempt to walk to reach the flag at the end and win the competition. Most slip off, of course and splash into the warm sea. There are also paddle-boat races and other water games too.
Ix-Xagħra – Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady (also known as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory) – on 8th September, which is also a national holiday known as Jum il-Vittorja (Victory Day). Includes not only marches but concerts by the local Victory brass band and horse racing along the street.
Ir-Rabat – Our Lady of Graces – first Sunday after 8th September.
When was the last time that you were truly awed? Make your way to Gozo and enjoy the crisp air as the sun sets and Ghar Ilma hill lights up in a spectacle of hundreds of flaming lanterns. The beauty of light like you have never experienced before. A unique moment to inspire you, against the beautiful backdrop of the Gozitan countryside. Drop in at the beautiful Santa Lucija village square and mingle with the locals, savouring local food and unique hospitality.
For five weeks every year in June/July, Victoria joins the festival cities of the world, with artistes and ensembles from all over the world combining to leave their mark on the soul of the island. That is precisely what the Festival in the heart of Victoria, blending drive, professional ethos and the typical Gozo penchant for laid-back charm, has come to signify for an ever-widening network of patrons and admirers hailing from top music centres all over the world down to the cultural-minded visitor and local music lover. Culture makes places distinctive, engendering pride in the local community. It also makes a practical contribution in terms of sustainability, providing employment, encouraging learning and inspiring people to adopt creative and active lifestyles.
“Undoubtedly, Victoria boasts of a community fully inspired to build two magnificent theatres that have brought to Gozo’s magic shores world renowned artistes from all over the world. This city has developed an irresistible passion for musical culture…the Victoria Arts Festival, under the direction of Joseph Vella, is launched in the middle of June with its glittering musical choices.” The Times of Malta (That Super City of Culture, April 2014)
The Agriculture and Industrial Show (known also as Il-Wirja ta’ Santa Marija) has been organized by the Gozo Agricultural, Industrial and Cultural Society since 1855. Held annually on the 14th and 15th of August, it is a showcase for local crafts, agricultural products and live animals. It is held in the Villa Rundle public gardens in Ir-Rabat , which has recently undergone extensive refurbishment.
The show, visited each year by over 10,000 people enjoying more than 4000 exhibits, also has a competitive element. Trophies and cash prizes are awarded by expert judges in 13 categories ranging from animals (including horses, goats, cows, sheep and dogs), to food products and artisan crafts which the show helps to keep alive. The awards ceremony is held on 15th August in the presence of His Excellency The President of Malta.
Now in its 14th year, the Qala International Folk Festival has developed into a colourful celebration of cultures through folk dance and music.
For a whole weekend, the village of Qala is transformed into a hub of folk activities as the quaint village square is brought to life by a unique intercultural programme, that has grown to attract locals and visitors for its quality entertainment in an intimate, village setting.
This is a great opportunity to experience life at a village square while enjoying folk dance, music and traditional food, a true taste of Gozo in all senses.
Carnival Week is undoubtedly one of the most colourful events in the Gozitan – and Maltese – calendar. Traditionally preceding Christian Lent, Carnival provides five days of revelry with many people dressing up in colourful costumes and covering their faces with masks.
Carnival is closely associated with Maltese folklore. It has been celebrated in Malta since the arrival of the Knights of St. John in 1530, and some studies date the first carnival revelry back as early as 1470. Up until 1751, carnival was an activity exclusive to Valletta, but that is certainly not true today.
In Gozo, the main activities take place in It-Tokk (Independence Square), the main square in Gozo’s capital Ir-Rabat and in In-Nadur. Ir-Rabat (Victoria)’s celebrations are the usual carnival fare much like those in Valletta with floats, costumes and general revelry. Carnival in Nadur is quite different.
Nadur’s carnival is deeply traditional and essentially spontaneous. There is no organising committee and there are no rules. In Nadur the purpose of costumes is disguise – quite simply not to be recognised. Sunset reveals a multitude of masked and hooded creatures thronging the streets. People wear all kinds of funny and grotesque costumes, some satirical, and most remain silent to aid their disguise, gaining the Nadur celebrations the sobriquet, The Silent Carnival.
The Nadur ‘floats’ are often little more than carts released from their duties on local farms but there is an edge to the celebrations. Amongst the absurd costumes are to be seen placards daubed with remarks, most of them insults to public (and sometimes private) personalities. In order to avoid libel, many are indirect or veiled references that need the knowledge of a local to interpret them.