cultural territorial networks

immaterial heritage



Intangible heritage is very difficult to safeguard and uphold since it changes over time and unless we do our utmost to capture the vivid images and memories of our older generations they could be lost forever.

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5.1 Maltese Traditional Passenger Boat


For the first time in its history the Maltese traditional passenger boat or dghajsa tal-pass was represented in the mid-17 th century by the renown artist Schellinks, who was in Malta between 1664 and 1665, in one of his paintings. It was not possible to trace earlier icons of this traditional boat although in 1601 it is mentioned by Contreras as being a ferry boat in the harbour.

It should be noted that all modifications effected on the dghajsa after 1800 were all required by the harbour authorities to ensure the safety of passengers and to enhance its appearance. Very few traditional boats are built nowadays and only for the National Regattas being slightly modified to comply with the racing regulations.

The Maltese passenger boat which is an attraction in Grand Harbour and was the means of live-hood for countless boatmen is slowly declining from the local scene. At one time there were boat builders, painters, caulkers, oarsmen, sail makers and many others who earned a living by the services attached to the dghajsa.

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5.2 Traditional Feasts


There are festas throughout the year but the festa season reaches it's peak in the summer months with most being celebrated in July and August. One festa os celebrated simultaneously in 7 different towns and villages at the same time. The Maltese summer skies are lit up with spectacular fireworks during the festa season and also very loud mortars are let off to announce the appearance of the village patron outside of the parish church door (kaxxa tal-hrug). This fireworks domination is tken a step further with every parish ready to outdo it's rival both in quality and quantity of the fireworks let off.

A tradition dating back to the 16th century, the village festa honours the patron saint of the parish. The festa celebrations usually last a whole week, the facade of the parish churches are lit up and the streets are decorated with lights and banners. Marching bands wind their ways round the village and most try to cover most of the main roads of the village to bring the festa to a large percentage of the village population. The main events are on Saturday and the Sunday of the Festa.
On Saturday the traditional 'Giggifogu' is held in one of the village squares. This is a land-based kind of fireworks, mortars and flares are attached to rotating wheels on poles and as the flares burn the wheels spin revealing different colourful patterns. The 'Giggifogu' is usually followed by the regular fireworks which can be seen for miles. Known as 'Kaxxa Infernali' to the locals the displays light-up the Maltese Saturday evening skies and on certain Saturday's in July and August you can see fireworks in every direction you look on the island.

Sunday is the official festa day and the celebrations start early in the morning with a morning march. The late afternoon starts with the religious ceremonies which are followed by a procession with volunteers carrying the statue of the patron saint followed by a marching band and devotees. As the procession makes it's way around the streets mortars are setoff and tons of confetti are showered on to the procession. At the end of the procession the statue re-enters the Parish Church and a huge round of mortars goes off and it is followed by more fireworks.

Food also plays a part in the local festa celebration, traditional nougat and mqaret are sold in the village main square.

To end off the celebrations many of the parish's citizens take their celebrations to local beaches for a day in the sun and feasting on food and wine.

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