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Malta’s Most Popular Folk Festival

all cast light on our darkness because humanity has created a path

(Erstwhile Horsted Keynes resident, Albert Fenech, writing from his adopted home in Malta)

Although thousands of miles apart and thousands of years away it is a wonder of discovery how despite these differences and above all the difference of religious faiths, there is a human bond in activities performed.



Many thousands of years ago the Hindu Religion throughout India celebrated the power of light over darkness, denoting the realms of light over the despondency of darkness. This was seen as the essential light path of Eternal Rest denoting life over death.


Folk Ghana Singing


In India, at the start of Diwali in their early autumn, homes and buildings are lit with candles and small bonfires lit on street corners. The actual day is celebrated with huge bonfires and of course it must be remembered that cremation of the human body also originated in India – light once more triumphing over darkness.



As a recognition that Diwali was incorporated into the Semitic system and language, the word “light” is “Dwal” or “Dewl” from the Diwali and hence once more, the depth of Maltese heritage over many other different cultures.


Folk Ghana Singing


The Luminarja was widely celebrated in Europe in different forms such as Bonfire Night in Britain and the rest of mainly Latin Europe a night of street corner bonfires and a wealth of eating and drinking.

Traditional Fried Rabbit, a Mnarja Speciality


As it so happened in Malta, this clashed with the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, seen as “the lights” of Christianity through their martyrs’ ending and for many hundreds of years a big celebration was annually held in Buskett Gardens on 29th June annually and is still held today although naturally over the last 30 years it has had to contend with other national celebrations backed by cash and technology.

Verdala Palace in Buskett Gardens on Mnarja Day is a feast of street horse-racing, folklore music, costumes, fruits and vegetables and good eating


Mnarja Open Road Horse Racing (c) Reuben Demanuele 2008


Buskett Gardens was its main attraction, a rare garden in Central Malta at the time and making a great difference from the totally enveloped limestone environment all around.


Verdala Palace and Buskett Gardens

The founder of Valletta and Malta’s hero during the Great Siege of the Ottomans was French Grandmaster Jean Parisot de la Valette who served as Order supremo from 1557 to 1586 and declared the area to be a hunting lodge for the Knights. Later, Grandmaster de Verdalle built the imposing Verdala Palace there as his summer residence and hunting zone and more embellishments followed over the years.


Hence the splendid Baroque elements of one of Malta’s major attractions, with the common public naturally banned from the area for a number of centuries before it was opened as a public garden to all.