Malta’s fiery passion for fireworks goes back centuries. Some even say it dates back to the time of the Knights who used to put on pyrotechnic displays on special occasions, such as to celebrate the election of Grand Masters or new popes.
The tradition has remained strong throughout Malta’s towns and villages. In fact there are some 35 fireworks factories scattered around the small island and nearly double that number of parish festas, each putting on their own fireworks celebrations every year. Summer season in Malta is chock-a-block with colourful pyrotechnic wizardry lighting up Malta’s night skies every single weekend. As such it can be difficult to know which festivities to attend to witness the absolute best fireworks events. But not to worry, a little guidance is on hand.
From crowd-pulling firework festivals to buzzing village festas, here are our top 5 festivals to visit to experience the best fireworks in Malta .
MALTA INTERNATIONAL FIREWORKS FESTIVAL
The Malta International Fireworks Festival sees the crème de la crème of local and international pyrotechnic companies put on impressive firework displays to compete for several prestigious awards. Taking place over four nights between April and May the event is organised by the Ministry for Tourism and the Malta Tourism Authority. Previous editions of the festival have taken place at Valletta’s Grand Harbour, in Mqabba and Xaghra, Gozo. Aside from the main prize of Best Fireworks Display, the festival also hosts a Pyromusical competition where teams synchronise the pop, blasts and fizzes of their fireworks to match the rhythm of musical numbers. In previous editions of the festival, pyrotechnic companies from Malta, Italy, the UK and the USA have taken home gold medals. The festival always guarantees magical, kaleidoscopic nights that will delight locals and tourists alike.
MALTA MECHANISED GROUND FIREWORKS FESTIVAL
Ground fireworks are an integral part of any Maltese festa celebration. Over the decades, these displays have evolved into a unique pyrotechnic tradition of their own throughout the island, and are taken as seriously as any aerial fireworks display. The Malta Mechanised Ground Fireworks Festival is dedicated to celebrating the best of these grounded pyrotechnic innovations. During the festival, which is usually held at the Floriana Granaries, local factories in Malta compete for the title of national champion. Every participant competes by exhibiting two mechanised Catherine wheels each. They are then judged on the merits of three categories: best mechanism, best products used and originality of exhibition in terms of design and movement. The festival ends with the magical it-tapit (carpet) display, where a row of Catherine wheels are lit up simultaneously, creating a carpet-on-fire effect.
SANTA MARIJA (MQABBA)
Over this last decade the St Mary Fireworks Factory of Mqabba has grown into one of the most innovative pyrotechnic companies on the island. During their parish feast of St. Mary, held during the week leading up to the 15th of August, a colourful firestorm is let loose above this pretty little village. Highlights from previous years have included a 57-metre high Tower of Light, which shoots out fireworks to create unique effects, shapes and letters; and also a pyromusical show where 10,000 shots were synchronised to a range of musical genres. Throughout the grand display are also traditional multibreak cracking shells known as beraq and coloured shells that glow and flare. Outside the parish church in the village square, they also set up mechanised ground fireworks, some as large as 10 metres in diameter. Impressive stuff.
FEAST OF ST MARY’S (MOSTA)
The feast of St. Mary (or Santa Marija as it’s known locally) is without doubt the biggest festa on the island. Every year, seven localities celebrate this feast on the 15th of August. Arguably Mosta has become the most popular of all. First of all, there’s Mosta’s spectacular rotunda church to consider, which looms resplendent in coloured lights over the bustling crowds in the village piazza. Then throw the considerable talent of Mosta’s fireworks factory into the mix and you’re guaranteed an unforgettable festa experience. In 2019, these pyrotechnicians presented the Symphony of Fire. They used more than 6,000 sparks in an epic 23-minute music synchronised spectacle. Catherine wheels, flashes, aerial fireworks and more were all used to breathtaking effect.
FEAST OF ST PHILIP’S (ZEBBUG)
There’s always a competitive spirit at play among local firework factories. Each pyrotechnic team is always looking to one-up neighbouring towns and villages with firework displays that are bigger, more colourful and longer. The feast of St. Philip’s in Zebbug has become renowned for fireworks displays par excellence. The festa, which is held in June, regularly pulls in throngs of tourists and locals alike, who love to soak up the buzzing atmosphere of the village. One of their biggest successes was 2014’s Pyro Rhapsody. More than 4,000 pyrotechnic materials were strung together to produce a masterclass of a firework show that lasted around 40 minutes. As with every festa, this is a free show. But for the meagre price of €2, you can gain entry to a privileged seating area for an optimal viewing experience.