The feast of St Peter and St Paul on June 29 marks an important event in the Maltese calendar.
Traditionally known as ‘L-Imnarja’, it is one of the oldest feasts in Malta and Gozo, goes back to before the arrival of the Knights in 1530.
The name ‘L-Imarja’ is a corruption of Italian ‘luminaria’ or illumination. This was the way people celebrated the festival by burning bonfires and candles, and the illumination of the Mdina Cathedral and walls of the old capital city.
On the eve of the feast the scene shifts to Buskett Gardens on the outskirts of Rabat. Here the cries of food and drink vendors mingle with the boisterous crowd.
By this time animals taking part in the annual agricultural show would have been blessed, with thousands of visitors flocked to watch the festival of animals, vegetables, fruits, poultry, honey and many other exhibits.
Even today, people still make their way to Buskett, where the scene is set for a feast of song and food beneath the trees.
On the afternoon of June 29, the ‘Imnarja’ festivities reached their climax with the traditional horse and donkey races in Rabat.
In the 17th and 18th centuries these races consisted of seven events, including races for boys, slaves, men, donkeys, mules, mares and horses.
The feast of St Peter and St Paul is also celebrated in Nadur, Gozo, this time in the usual festive manner that is normally held in towns and villages.