The Maltese Islands celebrate 14 holidays each year, falling into two categories: Public Holidays and National Holidays. Public Holidays commemorate mostly religious and social themes, while National Holidays recall patriotic themes, namely significant dates in Maltese history which helped change the course of the islands’ fate. National holidays help keep these historical events fresh in our minds, reminding us of the struggles our nation had to undergo to achieve the status it holds today. So, whether you’re new to the islands, or you’ve completely forgotten why we have so many off days throughout the year, we can help you better understand the importance of each National Holiday, and how you can join the celebrations.
31st March – Freedom Day
Jum il-Ħelsien, or Freedom Day, is celebrated each 31st March, commemorating the same date in 1979 when the British troops and the Royal Navy withdrew their forces from the islands. For the first time in over a thousand years, Malta no longer served as a military station for a foreign power, making the archipelago truly independent, even though by law independence had been given 15 years before. The main events which are held on this day take place on the Freedom Day Monument in Vittoriosa, where wreaths of flowers are placed by Malta’s highest officials, as well as on the War Memorial in Floriana, where a similar ceremony takes place. A Regatta (a traditional Maltese boat race) is held in the afternoon in the Grand Harbour, where seven seaside towns compete for the coveted shield.
7th June – Sette Giugno
The 7th June in Malta is known by its Italian name, Sette Giugno, and remembers the same day in 1919 when four Maltese patriots were killed by British troops. Following an ever-growing increase in the cost of living after the hardships of World War I, the Maltese started a series of riots and protests against the privileged few – which included the British colonial government – who were keeping the majority in poverty, refusing to raise wages to meet the sensational increase in the prices of everyday supplies. The four Maltese men who were killed during these riots in Valletta were Manwel Attard, Guze Bajada, Lorenzo Dyer and Carmelo Abela. These riots are considered as the first step towards Maltese Independence, a step which took almost fifty years to complete. During this National Holiday, wreaths are placed upon the monument commemorating these four fallen men, which lies in St George’s Square, Valletta.
8th September – Victory Day
The 8th September is one of the most important dates in Maltese history. It marks the end of three sieges against the islands, two of which were amongst the bloodiest sieges in history. The Great Siege of 1565 saw its end on the 8th September, when Ottoman Troops retired in defeat after more than three months of Siege against the islands. The Siege of Valletta of 1800 marked the end of the French occupation of Malta, also on the 8th September. The Siege of Malta during World War II also saw its end on this fateful day, when the Italian army withdrew their attacks in 1943, thus marking the end of World War II in the Maltese Islands. This momentous date also marks the feast of the birth of the Virgin Mary, a venerated feast on the Maltese Islands, celebrated as the village feast in Senglea, Naxxar, Mellieħa, and Xagħra, Gozo.
The 8th September nowadays is mostly known for the traditional Regatta, held in the Grand Harbour. The towns of Cospicua, Vittoriosa, Senglea, Birzebbuga, Marsa, Valletta and Kalkara compete for the laudable shield, each hoping that their town’s name will be engraved as that year’s winner. The Armed Forces of Malta commemorate this day with an annual Parade along Republic Street in Valletta, a procession which ends at St John’s Co-Cathedral, in the presence of Malta’s highest officials.
21st September – Independence Day
Independence Day, or Jum l-Indipedenza as it is known in Maltese, commemorates the 21st September 1964, when Malta gained Independence from the British. The British government had promised the Maltese their independence as a reward for the hardships the islands had to endure during the Second World War. Nearly twenty years after the end of the war, Malta finally became Independent, with the Maltese flag finally raised at the Independence Arena in Floriana on the night between the 20th and 21st September 1964, among the cheer and delight of the Maltese population. Gorg Borg Olivier was elected first Prime Minister of the newly Independent Maltese Islands, inaugurating the festivities which were held on the day. Nowadays this historic day is commemorated by the placing of wreaths on the Independence Monument in Floriana.
13th December – Republic Day
The 13th December of 1974 marks the date when the Maltese constitution was amended to remove the British Monarch as the head of the Maltese state, with its sovereignty being held by its own President. Sir Anthony Mamo was named Malta’s first President of the Republic, thus heralding an end to Queen Elizabeth II’s rule over the archipelago, a role that was still held despite Malta’s Independence ten years prior. This day is still remembered by various activities, mainly by the awarding of Ġieħ ir-Repubblika by the President of the Maltese Islands to citizens who deserve this highest honour. Wreaths are also placed upon the Republic Day Monument in Marsa, and a military parade is held in the main streets of Valletta.