Every village in Malta celebrates the local church’s patron saint with a major festa lasting a week or nine days. The main Saint Nicholas festa in Siggiewi is held Thursday through Sunday, ending on the the last Sunday in June. The Church of Saint-Nicolas of Bari is beautifully decorated and lit, inside and out. The whole village, houses and all, are festooned with garlands, banners and flags. Festival week is also a time for visiting and hospitality as people come from all over Malta to enjoy the celebration.
Brass bands march and play in competition throughout the week. The oldest Siggiewi band, St. Nicholas Band Club, located on St. Nicholas Square, and the Siggiewi Festival Brass Band and Social Club, organized in the 1990s, both make the Siggiewi St. Nicholas feast one of Malta’s most enjoyable.
As with most festivals, food is important. Kiosks sell ice cream, hot dogs, burgers, kebobs, chips and more. Special sweets include mgaret, pastry stuffed with dates, and white nougat with almonds or peanuts.
The week features many processions—one night features relics, another, St. Nicholas statue—and religious services. Solemn Mass with Gregorian chant, Solemn Te Deum, Solemn Novena with Hymns to St. Nicholas, and Solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, are all part of the week-long celebration. The long homily features rhyming words and may be evaluated by how many Latin quotations or how many times St. Nicholas’ name is used.
On Saturday night before the Sunday Feast Day a major procession with brass bands goes through the village. A spectacular fireworks display ends the evening.
On Sunday the large St. Nicholas statue comes out of the church go in procession through the village. This lively procession has rich music, incense, confetti thrown by bystanders, and palm branches and flowers. On returning to the church the statue is welcomed with clapping, crying and singing. Inside the church the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament follows. It is a truly beautiful climax to the week of festivity.
There is competition among Malta villages to have the most spectacular feast. So each town strives to have the most extravagant fireworks and the most accomplished musicians. Festival organizers collect significant funds so they can add to their accumulation of statues, flags and banners. These rivalries go back a long time—when the churches were built, parishioners gave generously to build the most beautiful and rich churches they could afford. Churches are prominently placed and can often be seen for miles.
Until the 1960s special breads were associated with different saints. People in Siggiewi used to make Saint Nicholas’s bread—a bread believed to give healing powers to water in which it was immersed.
Though the main June festival, like most traditional festivals in Malta, is in the summer, there is also a festival Mass for St. Nicholas on his feast day in December. The Saint Nicholas Band Club decorates the main piazza balconies with six large banners. After the Mass they play a concert in front of the church.
Innu lil San Nikola (Anthem to Saint Nicholas), the official Maltese hymn of St. Nicholas of Bari, Banda San Nikola, Siggiewi
Coro Bel Canto singing “Ego Sum Nicholaus” by Dr. Paolo Nani, Siggiewi Parish Church of St. Nicholas, directed by Hermann Farrugia Frantz:
More in other sections
Antiphon and Hymn to St. Nicholas from Siggiewi
St. Nicholas Monuments in Malta
Old Festival Brass Band site
Ghaqda tan-Nar San Nikola Fireworks Club