The traditional feast of St Martin, which in Malta goes back hundreds of years, is a tradition that is much loved and is associated with and commemorated by the village of Baħrija which organises an annual festival fair that stretches back to almost 70 years. This year’s event has been given a new look, and also established a new record.
An item that is part and parcel of the St Martin tradition is a simple cloth bag that is filled with an assortment of nuts (like walnuts and hazlenuts), fruit (apples, pears and tangerines) and various sweetmeats and is presented to children and is known as “Il-borża ta’ San Martin”. This year Baħrija set a new national record by producing the largest ever “borża ta’ San Martin”, a bag that weighed more than 300 kilos.
Another part of the tradition is the normally fine weather known as “St Martin’s Summer” – the equivalent of the British “Indian Summer” – a period of fine weather and sunshine, and today no less as thousands flocked to Baħrija to attend the event.
One of the event’s organisers, Charles Sammut, said that although the Baħrija event stretches back to the 1950s, it is still a favourite event among children. He said the bag would be opened and all the contents distributed to those attending.
In former days the event was also associated with a lottery with turkeys as prizes in anticipation of the coming Christmas period. This however has been discontinued and nowadays the event is a show-window of Maltese traditions, an agricultural display and special animations for children.
Martina Mifsud, who attended the event recalled the traditional message on St Martin’s feast day, this being “Ġewż, lewż, qastan, tin, kemm inħobbu lil San Martin!” – which roughly translated means “hazlenuts, almonds, chestnuts and figs show our love for St Martin”.
The mission for the coming year is that this record will again be broken by the Baħrija Fair.