The Imnarja festival is held on the 28th and 29th of June yearly. During this festival you can experience various old Maltese customs and traditions.
The name for this very popular Maltese festival is believed to have been corrupted from the Italian word “luminaria” which means illuminations. This refers to the bonfires that used to be lit up in Rabat during the festival in the old days. (Imnarja can also be spelt Mnarja).
The 29th of June is also the feast day of St Peter and St Paul and the Mnarja festival is heavily linked to this feast as well. The origins of this festival date back to before the Knights of Malta period!
The festival starts on the 28th of June in Buskett Gardens.
The atmosphere in Buskett is that of a huge and never ending party … with folk music and traditional singing (ghana), dancing and plenty of food and drink.
The main dish that is served during the event is rabbit stew. In fact, rabbit is consumed in abundance during the Mnarja festival. To wash down the food, plenty of excellent local wine is in order :)
The festivities go on until the wee hours of the following morning!
In the old days, there was the custom that when a couple got married, the groom promised his bride that he would take her to the Mnarja evening celebrations after they got married.
The following day, i.e. the 29th of June, is a public holiday in Malta and Gozo.
On the 29th, the festival continues at the same location i.e. Buskett Gardens. This time though, it is more of an agricultural show where you can see lots of farmers proudly exhibiting their fresh produce.
In the afternoon, the attention is switched to the Telgha tas-Saqqajja in Rabat (Saqqajja Hill) where bareback horse and donkey races are held. Thousands go to watch these races each year. The winner of the race is awarded a colourful brocade banner.
In summary, the Imnarja festival is a huge sociable and family affair where families and friends meet and celebrate day and night in Buskett Gardens, which is the largest natural woodland in Malta.