Not many Maltese people would readily admit that we have too many public holidays, and let’s face it; why would we? Public holidays are great! Our island is home to the most holidays in the European Union, which we’re happy to count as a pretty substantial achievement.

Besides, public holidays aren’t just fun, whimsical days where we get to laze about instead of going to work. On the contrary, most of them represent really meaningful national events. Perhaps this is no better exemplified than on the 13th of December, when the Maltese celebrate the day the island officially became a republic.


If you’re here on holiday on Republic day, the whole off-day thing will probably be a bit lost on you, since you definitely wouldn’t be working anyway. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t get into the spirit of the holiday. In fact, it gives you even more reason to appreciate the history and implications of the day, since you have no motive to celebrate other than connecting with the rich story of the Maltese islands. That’s why we’re providing some historical content about Republic day for you so that on the 13th of December you can jump for joy with the rest of us!


The history in a nutshell

You might already know that the majority of Malta’s history involves being ruled by some foreign power, which means that the fact that we were colonised by the British Empire should be even less surprising. The British took over in 1800 after kicking out the French, who occupied the islands for only a couple of years. Although the British initially ruled de facto, meaning that they were not official rulers, they were later elected by the Maltese themselves in 1813 to become the island’s de jure leaders.

It turned out that Malta became a pretty important asset to the British. We became a shipping stop thanks to our strategic position in the Mediterranean, especially when the Suez Canal opened. Our geographic advantage also proved extremely useful in both world wars, as the islands served as fantastic hospital stations while also providing handy routes to access Italian territory.

After World War II, Malta still remained under the British, although discourse soon opened with regard to what course of action should be taken as far as Malta’s status was concerned. There was even an attempt to integrate with Great Britain, although this ultimately was not successful. Finally, in 1964, Malta managed to achieve its independence, and eventually became a republic just ten years later. Sir Anthony Mamo was declared our first President.

Every year, in the spirit of Republic Day, the President of Malta holds an awards ceremony, celebrating individuals who have brought honour to Malta in their own way.

Independent? Republic? What’s the difference?

It’s a fair question, especially considering that we celebrate both pretty equally here. The main difference is that when Malta achieved independence, it became part of the Commonwealth, and as such the British monarch remained the ultimate head of state. When Malta became a republic, it was a final change in status, and we officially stopped thinking of Queen Elizabeth as our own queen.

Despite this, British troops remained in Malta until 31st March 1979 (Freedom Day), but that’s another public holiday altogether!

What’s the buzz?

Naturally, if you want to get into the spirit of Republic day, you’ll be looking for ways to celebrate. There are plenty of activities set up every year, including military parades around Valletta and Marsa, and wreath laying ceremonies at notable, Republic Day-related monuments. You can even catch the annual band concert, which takes place at the Manoel Theatre in Valletta, where you can hear some traditional marching band music.


One thing you definitely won’t want to escape are the vibrant fireworks. Though you can find these all over Malta, your best bet is to view them over the Grand Harbour in Valletta.


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