The 8th September is known as Victory Day in Malta. It’s a catch-all day because this particular public holiday has several roots, not one clear-cut raison d’etre for celebration: it marks the end of the Great Siege in 1565 and the end of French occupation on Malta in 1800, as well as the armistice of the Fascist regime in Italy in 1943 which saw the close of the Italian bombardment of the Islands.
Just to add to this medley of historic celebratory dates, we can include a parish feast day (festa) as some four localities celebrate the feast of Our Lady as a Child (Maria Bambina/Our Lady of Victory). To help coordinate things here a little, the religious feast conveniently changed its age-old name to the feast of ‘Il-Madonna tal-Vitorja’ in a mix of history and religious fervour following the end of the Great Siege of 1565.
But who cares about the history and religious history when you’ve the Regatta!
The 8th September is synonymous in most locals’ minds with the battle of the Grand Harbour oarsmen as they pitch brawn (and brain, in tactics and staying power) in the ritual Dhajsa rowing competitions.
Teams from Valletta, Vittoriosa, Senglea, Kalkara, Cospicua Marsaxlokk and Marsa have been practising for months to ensure they make a fighting attempt to win the Regatta. The link with all the historic celebratory reasons above? Well, there’s the fighting spirit (reminiscent of the Great Siege) and the zeal and passion (similar to the levels that go into parish festas).
So, while some reasons for public holidays can be mundane or irrelevant to today’s society, at least 8th September has a bit more panache than most. And it’s still a day of victory for some.
Photo: Ian Oakhill