WATCH: Was the tradition of the first swim of the year held during the feast of St Gregory?
On the Wednesday following Easter, the feast of St Gregory is celebrated, mainly in the south of Malta. With a 500 year history behind it, the feast continues to manifest some of the traditions connected to it.
The feast has its religious aspect in Żejtun and a recreational aspect at Marsaxlokk . . . and these link the two localities to the celebration of the feast that goes back to the beginning of the 16th Century. Maltese folklore ‘għana’ is a great part of the tradition with performers keeping the public cheerfully entertained.
The public also take the opportunity to admire handcrafts including loom weaving, filigree, earthenware, glass and lace. The staging of tombola is also highly popular … and naturally, food in abundance is always involved.
Ġiljan Attard has nostalgic memories of the feast since boyhood and as a fisherman, his memory is naturally framed with Marsaxlokk as a background.
He remembers that when he was young his family and he and others were involved but all was on a small scale, unlike today with such a large market. Food used to be cooked and the youngsters used to collect cockles and sell them.
Traditionally too, the feast is connected with taking the first swim of the year. However, many of those approached today were not too enthusiastic, mainly of the day’s cloudy condition.
In Żejtun’s St Gregory Church a Holy Mass was celebrated followed by folklore music, an initiative by Festivals Malta within the Ministry for Culture.
The Minister for Culture, Owen Bonnici, said the feast of St Gregory is one of three that traditionally involves folklore singers and this has to be projected and in fact was.
Children were also involved in traditional games.
Festivals Malta took the occasion to launch ‘Għanafest’ that starts at the beginning of summer. Artistic Director Tiziana Calleja said the festival will combine traditional elements with modern and contemporary themes.
Tiziana said this will involve bands like The Travellers, Skult and Mistura as well as Sharazad and other bands from around the world who will perform in collaboration at the Floriana Argotti Gardens.
The 12th edition of ‘Għanafest’ will take place on 21st and 22nd June at Floriana’s Argotti Gardens.