The Festa of Santa Marija
So here I am in Gozo, Malta.
It is hot.
It is sunny.
It is beautiful!
Because of the aforementioned heat (and the tenacious effects of jet lag), I haven't gotten out and about very much. I'm staying in a huge, old stone house (parts of it dating back 400 years) with a balcony opening off of my bedroom and another just down the hall that offer spectacular views of the ocean and the town. There is also a swimming pool and some great company, so basically I can see amazing sights and have interesting conversations without ever leaving a cool place. I'm becoming pretty thoroughly spoiled!
Never fear, though, I will get out of the house soon. I have plans to explore the town and the local beach. There are some beautiful old churches here, one right beside the house and the other a short distance away, and I've enjoyed having the progress of the day marked by the chiming of the bells. However, I want to get inside, as old churches rank high on my list of things worth exploring. I'll also figure out the bus system (I'm assured that it's not nearly as complicated as it looks) and explore farther afield.
Last night, we drove into a larger town called, alternately, Rabat or Victoria, to partake in the festivities of the feast of Santa Marija (St. Mary). I haven't been able to find a lot of information about this holiday, but a bit of research yielded the facts that it is both the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady and Is-Seba' Santa Marijiet (The Seven Marys). It also a very special holiday for the people who live here because, in 1942, the islands faced starvation as Axis bombers repelled the ships sent to bring supplies, but on the morning of August 15th, a few ships did manage to make it through, giving Malta the ability to keep on fighting. The ships' arrival on the very day of the feast of Santa Marija was seen as a direct answer to prayer, and part of the festa is dedicated to the commemoration of this event.
|The Ohio, Pedestal's vital tanker, towed by two destroyers and one minesweeper, after surviving an Italian torpedo hit and two crashing German bombers, enters the Grand Harbor on the 15th August, 1942 - the feast of Santa Marija - granting Malta a new lease on life. \\ Source|
We enjoyed the lights, the bands, the street food, the fireworks display. We climbed the hill to Rabat's old fortress, and got a spectacular view of the fireworks and the city lights from the tops of the battlements.
We got to look inside several of Rabat's churches - beautifully draped in red velvet for the special day - and I learned that many of the churches have baskets of shawls in the entrance because it's disrespectful for women to enter the churches bare-shouldered or with too much leg exposed. I found this a bit amusing, since most of the women I've seen so far dress pretty skimpily when they're out in the streets. I think I'll throw an extra scarf into my purse, so that I can have it handy whenever I wear a tank top. However, I don't think I'll be adopting the fashions (or the killingly high heels) any time soon! :)
I was very pleased with the family-friendliness of the festa. Every sector of the population, from grandparents to infants, were out in the streets having a splendid time.
I had a splendid time, too. The experience of Santa Marija was well worth a late night!