Santa Marija – the Feast that brings together a nation

Bels Blogs - Santa Marija - Statue of Santa Marija - Attard

True to it’s Catholic roots, Malta’s religious feasts always take prominence on the annual calendar of celebrations. The chief among these feasts is that of Santa Marija. To the Catholic world at large 15th August is the date we commemorate the assumption of the Madonna to Heaven. To the Maltese specifically this date is intrinsically linked to events during World War II and a true fight for survival. 

Operation Pedestal, as it was known, was a British operation to get desperately needed supplies to  Malta in August 1942.  In 1941–42, as a British military base, Malta was effectively under siege. To sustain the island, the United Kingdom had to get convoys through at all costs. Despite serious losses, just enough supplies were delivered for Malta to survive. The convoy is also known as the “Battle of Mid-August” in Italy and as the Konvoj ta’ Santa Marija in Malta. The arrival of the last ships of the convoy on 15 August 1942, coincided with the Feast of the AssumptionThe attempt to run fifty ships past bombersE-boatsminefields, and submarines has gone down in military history as one of the most important British strategic victories of the Second World War. However, it was at a cost of more than 500 lives, with only five of the original 14 merchant ships reaching the Grand Harbour.

Today the feast of Santa Marija is celebrated in numerous towns and villages across Malta and Gozo, namely Attard, Mosta, Mqabba, Qrendi, Gudja, Ghaxaq, Dingli, Mgarr and Zebbug and Victoria in Gozo.  For the first time in 40 years, in 2015 the island of Comino is celebrating the feast. Though most localities mark the 15th August, some commemorate this feast the following week. The Comino celebrations will be held on 22nd August  when the Santa Marija Tower (made famous in the 2002 film The Count of Monte Cristo), will be open to the public.

For more about the traditions of the Maltese Festi , have a look at our earlier article from this summer.


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