The event, which according to popular belief is related to a general vow by the public on their deliverance from the plague, goes back to 1543 but may have started as early as 1519. The popular event is celebrated on the first Wednesday after Easter Sunday and originally consisted of a pilgrimage by confraternities from all Maltese parishes starting from Mdina and ending with a religious ceremony at the Żejtun parish church.
Today, the pilgrimage was somewhat shorter and started from the chapel of St Clement in Żejtun. From there, participants – accompanied by the archbishop and the metropolitan chapter, the archpriest, the clergy, and the Archconfraternity of St Joseph of Rabat - went to the Żejtun parish church where the miserere was sung. The pilgrimage then continued to Żejtun's old parish, popularly known as San Girgor, where mass was said. After the religious function, the crowd made its way to Marsaxlokk to relax and enjoy the rest of the day with traditional music and għana, food, and – for brave ones – their first swim.
In its drive to encourage and strengthen the traditional and folk elements of this feast, the Festivals Directorate within Arts Council Malta is supporting the event. This year, In Guardia re-enactors took on the role of knights from the Order of St John and accompanied the procession to the old parish church, San Girgor. Along the way, artisans worked on their particular traditional crafts.
After mass, a group of għannejja and musicians entertained the crowd with short traditional songs. They then got on two animal-drawn carts prepared for the occasion and made their way to Marsaxlokk, following the old route to the fishing village. At Marsaxlokk, two platforms were set up where, throughout the afternoon, a folk programme which included two of the main types of traditional għana – daqq tal-prejjem and botta u risposta – were held. Nearby, there were also a number of stalls with traditional crafts such as the loom, filigree, pottery, cane work, glass and lace.
An event which will continue to strengthen our folk traditions, deeply-rooted in history while at the same time keeping them alive and relevant to today's society. This event was organised by Arts Council Malta in collaboration with the Zejtun Local Council and the Marsaxlokk Local Council.
More information about this event can be obtained from Arts Council Malta on 2339 7000 and on website www.għanafest.com