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St.George feast in Victoria

Wednesday – L-Ewwel Jum tat-Tridu
The external festivities on Wednesday, the first day of the Triduum, start on St Francis Square, at around 9.00pm, by which time a large crowd would have filled the sprawling square to capacity. A large statue of St George on a white stallion and flashing his deadly sword at the underlying dragon is carried shoulder high, accompanied by the La Stella Band together with a guest band giving full voice to their instruments amid a surging crowd made up mostly of young families – couples dragging small children behind them, and crowds of youths. Moving slowly down Strada Palma, turning up into Republic Street where ground fireworks are let off, then alongside It-Tokk, into St Joseph Street and, finally, St George’s Square, the whole do takes all of three hours. Then there is the jubilant tlugħ (rising) of the statue onto its gilded plinth right in front of the baslica. And then… a welcome beer at one of the numerous bars around. One – two o’clock, and off to bed.

Thursday – Il-Hamis tat-Tridu
Click To EnlargeThursday dawns early for the bell ringers who call the priests and faithful for concelebrated High Mass at 8.15am. But it is again in the late evening that the La Stella Band’s commitments begin. On this second day of the Triduum, the band starts marching from St George’s Square. Another statue of St George is carried shoulder high. This day’s statue depicts the adolescent George, less his military garb, wearing a Roman tunic with a symbolic sword tied to his side, his gaze turned to heaven and his arm reaching out to it while waving his martyr’s palm. After the Ġorġi tagħna (the hymn to the Saint), the La Stella winds its way up, and then down the narrow west street known as San Ġorġ tal-Ħaġar (St George’s Street), round into Library Street, Archpriest Alfons Marija Hili Street, up Charity, down Triq Mons. Farrugia, and left into Strada Palma where the statue is laid upon its plinth in St Francis’ Square, and then up to It-Tokk and St George’s Square. Most of the people accompanying the crowd are today usually from the Parish.

Friday – Id-DimostrazzjoniClick To Enlarge
Friday, the third day of the Triduum is another affair altogether. On this day the dimostrazzjoni l-kbira (the big demonstration) is held. In early evening, the dazzling statue of St George that belongs to the La Stella Band is placed in front of the open portals of the basilica awaiting its turn to be carried shoulder high around the streets of the city. People start gathering on St George’s Square at around 9.30pm. Various bands from the villages would already have started their tours but the city band, La Stella, only starts to play at 10.30pm. Again it is accompanied by another band whose honour it would be to join it on this important highlight of the external festa.

The festive evening approaches its conclusion by impressive ground fireworks. Catherine wheels lining Republic Steet and noisy rockets mounted on wooden poles form an astonishingly beautiful backdrop of multi-coloured fire while the statue, flanked by thick crowds of bustling people, ascends slowly to the delight of the revellers and their applause. Upon the statue’s arrival on Independence Square, at around 1.00am, it is placed on a mobile platform and then raised up the to rest for the final days of the festa on the highest plinth in town, while the band plays the most popular hymn to St George and fireworks displays light up the dark summer night.

Saturday – Lejlet il-Festa
Saturday always dawns late, at least as far as the previous night’s revelers are concerned. On this day, the external festivities start late in the morning and they are tied to the solemn conclusion of the Triduum cycle inside the basilica. To celebrate it, a Te Deum is intoned by the Archpriest, or by his special guest celebrant for the day, and its chanted praise is immediately answered by the festive pealing of the uniquely solemn bells of the basilica which is in turn taken up by a fireworks display. These are the cue for the members of the La Stella Band to assemble on St George’s Square and to start a march which takes it and its supporters to the Club where drinks and food are offered to the members of the Society and to the eminent guests present for the reception.

Early in the afternoon there are the traditional horse races which are very popular with those who love such sporting activity. These used to be held on the Sunday afternoon, but practical reasons demanded their transfer, something which in fact went down well with everyone.

Other changes in the traditional pattern of the external festivities occurred these last years. These include the performance of the L-Innu l-Kbir in the Vigil of the festa before the start of the ceremonial march entrusted to the La Stella of the city of Victoria and the King’s Own of the city of Valletta. Another change involved the venue for the so-called marċ ta’ filgħodu on Sunday morning, which has now been confined to St George’s and Independence squares in order to avoid areas of potential offence. Yet, while the former is abidingly dignified, the latter is an entirely different kettle of fish altogether.

The external festivities reach their peak on festa day evening, when the La Stella Band takes her place of pride in the annual procession of St George to accompany the superb image of the Patron Saint along the main the streets of the city. For the first part, until the procession moves out of the basilica, it is on the La Stella that every body is focused, while the statue exits through the main portals and is greeted by huge crowds present amidst the vivid colour the of banners, the waving of palm branches, the rain of confetti, the aerial explosive displays and the playing of the loveliest hymns to St George by band and population.

The conclusion of the procession at around 10.00pm is likewise spectacular and… who could describe the electric atmosphere!

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