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Festa Zabbar


by Caye Vines



Welcome to the vibrant and enchanting world of Festa Zabbar! Nestled on the sunny Mediterranean island of Malta, Festa Zabbar is an annual celebration that brings together locals and visitors alike for a joyous and unforgettable experience. This traditional feast, also known as the “Festa ta ‘San Xmun,” is dedicated to St. Thomas, the patron saint of Zabbar.


With its rich history and deep-rooted customs, Festa Zabbar has become an integral part of the cultural fabric of the town. The festivities take place over several days, culminating in a grand procession that showcases the community’s devotion and resplendent spirit.


Step into the heart of Zabbar during this celebration, and you’ll be transported to a world of color, music, and excitement. The streets come alive with ornate decorations, vibrant lights, and the aroma of delectable Maltese cuisine.


Join the locals as they honor their patron saint in a truly unique way, and immerse yourself in the traditions, sights, and sounds of Festa Zabbar. In this article, we’ll take you on a captivating journey through the history, customs, and preparations that make this festa an event unlike any other.


History of Festa Zabbar

The origins of Festa Zabbar can be traced back centuries ago, to a time when Zabbar was a small rural village. The festa began as a way for the community to express their devotion to St. Thomas, who is believed to have performed miracles in the area. Over the years, the festivities evolved and grew, becoming an integral part of the town’s identity.


In the early days, the celebration was a simple affair, with villagers gathering for mass and a small procession. However, as Zabbar flourished and its population increased, so did the scale and grandeur of the festa. Today, Festa Zabbar has transformed into a spectacular event that attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world.


One of the most prominent aspects of Festa Zabbar is the role of the band clubs. These clubs are an essential part of Maltese culture and play a significant role in the festivities. Each band club is associated with a particular saint and is responsible for organizing events and activities during the festa. The band clubs are known for their passionate performances, adding a lively and musical atmosphere to the celebration.


Throughout its history, Festa Zabbar has faced challenges and changes. In times of war and economic hardship, the festivities persevered, providing a source of hope and unity for the community. The festa also underwent modifications to adapt to modern times, incorporating new elements while maintaining the cherished traditions that have been passed down through generations.


Today, Festa Zabbar continues to embody the spirit and resilience of the people of Zabbar. It serves as a testament to their faith, cultural heritage, and unwavering sense of community. The festa is not only a time of celebration but also a time for reflection and gratitude, as the people of Zabbar come together to honor their patron saint and give thanks for blessings received.


Tradition and Customs

The traditions and customs of Festa Zabbar are deeply rooted in the history and culture of the town. These cherished practices have been passed down through generations, keeping the spirit of the festa alive and vibrant.


One of the most significant customs of Festa Zabbar is the devotion to St. Thomas. The people of Zabbar hold a strong belief in the miraculous powers of their patron saint, and during the festa, they express their gratitude and seek his intercession. This devotion is expressed through religious ceremonies, processions, and special prayers dedicated to St. Thomas.


Another important custom is the role of the band clubs. Each band club plays a crucial part in the festa, with their members actively involved in the organization and execution of the various events. The band clubs prepare meticulously for the festa, rehearsing musical performances and perfecting their marching formations to create a mesmerizing spectacle during the procession.


The festa is also marked by elaborate decorations and illuminations. The streets of Zabbar are adorned with colorful banners, arches, and flags, creating a festive and inviting ambiance. Illuminated statues of St. Thomas and other saints are displayed throughout the town, casting a warm glow that adds to the magical atmosphere.


One of the highlights of Festa Zabbar is the traditional procession. This solemn yet majestic event showcases the devotion of the community as the statues of the patron saint and other revered religious figures are carried through the streets. The procession is accompanied by the rhythmic sounds of the marching bands, creating a stirring and emotional experience for those participating and observing.


Culinary delights are also an integral part of Festa Zabbar. Traditional Maltese dishes and delicacies are prepared with love and shared among neighbors, friends, and visitors. From mouthwatering pastizzi (savory pastries) to delectable ftira (traditional Maltese bread) topped with fresh ingredients, the culinary offerings during the festa tantalize the taste buds and showcase the rich flavors of Maltese cuisine.


These customs and traditions come together to create a sense of unity, pride, and joy during Festa Zabbar. The festa not only strengthens the bonds within the community but also welcomes visitors with open arms, inviting them to partake in the festivities and experience the unique cultural heritage of Zabbar.


Preparations for Festa Zabbar

Months before the grand celebration of Festa Zabbar, the residents of Zabbar begin their preparations with great enthusiasm and dedication. The entire community comes together to ensure that every detail is meticulously planned and executed, creating a memorable experience for all.


One of the main aspects of the preparations is the decoration of the town. Volunteers work tirelessly to dress the streets in vibrant colors and ornate banners, giving Zabbar a festive makeover. Archways and flags are put up, creating a visual spectacle that captures the essence of the festa. The meticulous attention to detail transforms the town into a breathtaking display of artistry.


Another crucial aspect of the preparations is the construction of the temporary bandstands, known as “kiosks.” These structures house the bands during the festivities and serve as a platform for their performances. The kiosks are beautifully decorated and meticulously designed to showcase the talent and passion of the musicians.


The band clubs also play a significant role in the preparations. Months in advance, they start rehearsing their musical performances, ensuring that they deliver flawless and captivating shows during the festa. These rehearsals involve intense practice sessions, where the bands perfect their arrangements and marching formations.


As the festa approaches, the community channels their energies into fundraising efforts to support the various activities and events. Fundraisers, such as barbeques, bake sales, and raffles, are organized to gather the necessary funds. The collective effort and support from the community ensure that the festa is a resounding success.


Another essential aspect of the preparations for Festa Zabbar is the organization of religious ceremonies. Special masses, prayers, and novenas are held in honor of St. Thomas and his intercession. These spiritual preparations serve as a reminder of the importance of faith and devotion during the festa.


The weeks leading up to the festa are a buzz of excitement and anticipation. Local artisans and craftsmen create intricate decorations and statues, bringing to life the symbolic representations of the saints. This craftsmanship adds an authentic touch, further enhancing the beauty and significance of the celebration.


Ultimately, the preparations for Festa Zabbar not only involve physical arrangements but also the spiritual and emotional dedication of the community. The collective efforts of the residents and the band clubs ensure that the festa is a testament to their unwavering devotion and commitment to their heritage.


The Procession

The highlight of Festa Zabbar is undoubtedly the grand procession, a solemn yet awe-inspiring event that takes place on the culmination of the festa. The procession showcases the deep reverence and devotion of the community as they honor their patron saint, St. Thomas, and other revered religious figures.


The procession begins with great anticipation and excitement as the statues of the saints are carefully placed on ornate platforms. The statues, adorned with intricate garments and crowns, are a testament to the skilled craftsmanship of local artisans. These beautifully crafted statues serve as the focal point of the procession and are carried through the streets with great reverence and care.


As the procession commences, the air fills with the rhythmic beats of the marching bands, the soul-stirring tunes signaling the start of this sacred journey. Each band club takes its place in the procession, clad in their vibrant uniforms and displaying their musical prowess. The bands march in perfect synchronization, adding a dynamic and melodic layer to the spectacle.


The procession route is meticulously planned, covering the main streets of Zabbar. The streets are lined with eager onlookers, both locals and visitors, who eagerly await the passing of the statues. As the statues make their way through the streets, the atmosphere is filled with a mix of solemnity, reverence, and awe.


Devotees join the procession, some walking barefoot as a sign of humility and devotion. They carry candles and sing hymns, their heartfelt prayers filling the air with a sense of spirituality and reverence. It is a poignant moment that encapsulates the deep faith and dedication of the community.


Throughout the procession, the statues are paused at various points to allow the crowd to pay their respects. This gives everyone an opportunity to express their devotion, offer prayers, and lay floral tributes at the feet of the saints. It is a moving sight to witness the outpouring of love and faith from the community as they connect with the spiritual significance of the festa.


The procession culminates as the statues return to the church, where a final blessing is imparted, marking the end of the procession. The community rejoices in their faith and the successful completion of the festa. The procession serves as a symbol of unity, devotion, and reverence, as the community comes together to honor their heritage and deepen their spiritual connection.


The procession of Festa Zabbar is not only a momentous event for the residents of Zabbar but also an unforgettable experience for visitors. It offers a unique opportunity to witness the fervor and devotion of the Maltese people as they come together to celebrate their patron saint in a display of unwavering faith and cultural pride.


Decorations and Illuminations

When it comes to Festa Zabbar, the town magically transforms into a visual spectacle with its elaborate decorations and illuminations. The streets come alive with vibrant colors, ornate banners, and stunning displays that captivate the senses and create an enchanting atmosphere.


Months of careful planning and creativity go into the decoration of Zabbar for the festa. Skilled artisans and passionate volunteers work tirelessly to bring the town to life, ensuring that every corner is adorned with intricately designed elements that reflect the rich cultural heritage of the community.


One of the most striking features of the decorations is the use of large banners and archways. These banners, crafted with precision and artistry, depict scenes from religious and historical events. They line the streets, providing a majestic pathway for the procession and adding a sense of grandeur to the festa.


Illuminated statues of saints become the focal points of attention during the festa. These statues, carefully positioned in prominent locations, are bathed in soft, warm light, creating a mesmerizing and sacred ambiance. The illumination not only highlights the exquisite details of the statues but also serves as a powerful symbol of devotion and spirituality.


Throughout the town, strings of colorful lights adorn buildings and balconies, casting a magical glow over the streets. These lights add to the festive atmosphere, creating a warm and inviting ambiance that envelops the entire town. Walking through the illuminated streets of Zabbar during the festa is like stepping into a fairy tale scene.


In addition to the lights, intricate paper decorations known as “festuni” are hung across the streets, balconies, and windows. These festoons, meticulously crafted by hand, feature intricate designs and patterns, adding a touch of whimsy and elegance to the festive atmosphere.


The doorways and facades of houses are also adorned with floral arrangements and garlands, showcasing the creativity and pride of the residents. Flowers of vibrant hues, such as carnations, roses, and lilies, are carefully selected and arranged in stunning displays that enhance the beauty of the festa.


Overall, the decorations and illuminations of Festa Zabbar transport visitors into a world of beauty and splendor. The meticulous attention to detail, combined with the artistry and passion of the community, create an atmosphere that is both awe-inspiring and uplifting. It is a visual feast for the eyes and a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Zabbar and its dedication to celebrating the festa in a truly magnificent way.


Entertainment and Activities

Festa Zabbar is not just a celebration of faith and tradition; it is also a time of vibrant entertainment and exciting activities for all who attend. The festa offers a wide range of entertainment options that cater to different interests and age groups, ensuring that everyone finds something enjoyable during this festive occasion.


One of the main sources of entertainment during Festa Zabbar is the live music performances by the renowned band clubs. The marching bands, in their stunning uniforms, captivate the crowd with their synchronized movements and powerful musical arrangements. Their energetic tunes fill the air, adding a rhythmic and dynamic element to the festivities.


For those who appreciate cultural performances, Festa Zabbar showcases traditional dance troupes that perform intricate and lively routines. These dancers, dressed in traditional costumes, showcase the authentic Maltese culture through their graceful movements and captivating choreography.


The festa also provides a platform for local artists to showcase their talents. Art exhibitions and craft fairs are organized, where artists display their paintings, sculptures, and handicrafts. It is an opportunity for visitors to appreciate the creativity and artistic expressions of the local community.


In addition to the visual and musical entertainment, Festa Zabbar offers a variety of activities for people of all ages. Children can enjoy amusement rides, face painting, and games specially organized for them. Food stalls line the streets, offering a wide array of delectable treats, including traditional Maltese dishes, international cuisine, and sweet delights.


Throughout the festivities, street performers entertain the crowd with their impressive talents. Magicians, acrobats, and fire breathers create an electrifying atmosphere, leaving the audience in awe and wonder. Their thrilling performances add an extra touch of excitement to the festa.


Furthermore, Festa Zabbar often hosts cultural and historical exhibitions that allow visitors to learn more about the town’s rich heritage. These exhibitions provide insights into the historical significance of the festa and its role in shaping the identity of the community. It is a chance for both locals and visitors to appreciate the cultural heritage of Zabbar.


Whether you’re a music lover, art enthusiast, or simply looking for a good time, Festa Zabbar offers a plethora of entertainment and activities to suit your preferences. The varied lineup of events ensures that everyone experiences a festive and enjoyable time, creating lifelong memories of this vibrant celebration.


Culinary Delights

Festa Zabbar is not only a visual and musical feast but also a culinary extravaganza that delights the taste buds of both locals and visitors. The festa offers a wide array of traditional Maltese delicacies and delectable dishes that showcase the rich flavors and culinary heritage of the island.


As you wander through the festa’s vibrant streets, the aroma of mouthwatering dishes fills the air, enticing you to explore the various food stalls and eateries. One of the must-try delicacies during Festa Zabbar is pastizzi. These savory pastries are filled with either ricotta cheese or mushy peas and are baked to perfection, creating a crispy and flaky treat that is both comforting and delicious.


Another popular Maltese dish that steals the spotlight during the festa is ftira. Similar to pizza but with a unique twist, ftira is a traditional Maltese bread topped with fresh local ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, olives, and capers. The combination of flavors and textures creates a delightful burst of Mediterranean goodness.


Festa Zabbar is also a place to savor traditional Maltese sweets and desserts. Imqaret, a deep-fried pastry filled with sweet date paste, is a favorite among festival-goers. The crispy exterior and sticky-sweet filling are a match made in culinary heaven. And let’s not forget the Maltese nougat, known as qubbajt, which comes in various flavors and textures, from soft and chewy to crunchy and nutty.


The festa is also an opportunity to indulge in fresh and succulent seafood dishes. The island’s proximity to the Mediterranean Sea means that seafood is a staple in Maltese cuisine. Grilled fish, calamari, and prawns are just a few of the mouthwatering options available, offering a taste of the sea and showcasing the simplicity and freshness of the ingredients.


For those craving heartier fare, Festa Zabbar offers a variety of barbecue options. Tender cuts of meat, marinated and grilled to perfection, are served alongside traditional side dishes such as roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables. The aroma of sizzling meats and the smoky flavors envelop the festa, creating an irresistible temptation.


No festa is complete without a refreshing drink, and Malta has its own traditional thirst quenchers. Try Kinnie, a carbonated soft drink made from bitter oranges and aromatic herbs, or enjoy a glass of locally produced wine, which pairs perfectly with the flavors of the Maltese delicacies.


As you indulge in the culinary delights of Festa Zabbar, you not only satisfy your appetite but also immerse yourself in the flavors and traditions of Malta. The festa offers a delightful gastronomic experience that complements the vibrant atmosphere and adds an extra layer of enjoyment to this cultural celebration.



Festa Zabbar is a celebration that captures the heart and spirit of the Maltese community. It is a time of reverence, joy, and unity as the people of Zabbar come together to honor their patron saint, St. Thomas. The festa is a sensory explosion, with its captivating decorations, enchanting illuminations, and soul-stirring music.


The rich history and deep-rooted traditions of Festa Zabbar reflect the resilience and faith of the community. Through the years, the festa has maintained its significance, adapting to change while preserving the treasured customs that have been passed down for generations. It serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of heritage and cultural identity.


As visitors immerse themselves in the festivities, they are met with warm hospitality and a sense of belonging. The entertainment, activities, and culinary delights create an experience that is both immersive and unforgettable, fostering a connection to the vibrant Maltese culture.


In the streets of Zabbar, one can witness the power of faith, the beauty of tradition, and the joy of coming together. Festa Zabbar is an invitation to explore the unique spirit of Malta, where history, culture, and devotion intertwine in a harmonious celebration.


So, come and join us in Festa Zabbar. Experience the grandeur of the procession, savor the delectable flavors of Maltese cuisine, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere that emanates from every corner. Whether you are seeking spiritual enlightenment, cultural enrichment, or an unforgettable adventure, Festa Zabbar is sure to leave you with cherished memories and a deeper appreciation for the traditions that define this captivating festa.