RABAT, Gozo (AP) — The streets and quaint lanes of Rabat on the island of Gozo in the Maltese archipelago come to life during the annual religious feast day of the Assumption of Mary.
The holiday is the peak of the summer season of religious village feasts and is celebrated in seven towns and villages, including Rabat.
During the week of the feast day, many Maltese and local residents congregate to Gozo’s capital, Rabat, for preparation, marches and traditional activities leading up to the festival.
On Aug. 15, traditional activities include a series of processions with local bands marching through the streets with boisterous traditional music emanating from their trumpets, flutes and drums.
The decorated streets are dotted with local food and ice cream trucks and drinks begin to flow from the morning. Residents throw paper confetti from ornamental balconies onto the marching bands and their followers.
The feast day of the Assumption of Mary coincides with another important event in Maltese history. During World War II, the SS Ohio tanker made it to Maltese shores to provide much-needed supplies on Aug. 15, 1942.
As the sun sets over the hill opposite the Old Citadella, the majestic statue of Our Lady is lifted from the Gozo Cathedral and perched up on a fortified hill. The procession begins with an emotional scene — a local band performs and devotees and spectators throw blessings and kisses and gaze in admiration as the statue is lifted through the crowds.
The statue of Our Lady is also led by a delegation of priests, holding religious paraphernalia. They wear bright purple garments, decorated with traditional Gozitan handmade lace, and adorned with intricate Maltese cross pendants.
The evening continues with celebration as residents eagerly await the finale — a vibrant firework show, lighting up the skyline behind the Old Citadel.
Malta’s archipelago has a predominantly Roman Catholic population of just over 400,000 people.