Culture
Balzunetta! Here’s all you need to know about the history of one of Gozo’s most iconic feast celebrations
Not a feast to be missed!

Emma Galea

One of Gozo's most anticipated events of the summer, the long awaited ‘Balzuenetta’ is almost here! The iconic celebration takes place every Friday on the week of the Ghajnsielem village feast dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Loreto’.

It’s truly a festa marc like no other that is full of unique traditions that result in an incredibly joyous and fun night out.

Thousands of locals and tourists alike are set to fill the street of Ghajnsielem tomorrow 25th August but what’s so special about Balzunetta and what’s the history behind it?

The euphoric celebrations start off from Mgarr road and finish at the Ghajnsielem main square. Unlike most other Maltese feasts, Ghajnsielem locals show up dressed from head to toe all in the same exact same fabric. Most people design the fabric in different styles, but they all show up in the same exact fabric pattern that changes every single year. This year’s design has a blue backdrop with white, pink and yellow tropical flowers. 

This odd and unique tradition started sometime in the 1980’s when a group of youths appeared for the Balzunetta in the same fabric. It soon caught on and 40 years later, it’s a huge part of the identity of the Ghajnsielem feast. People buy the fabric from Ghajnsielem’s 'Għaqda tal-Armar' with all the proceeds going towards the expenses it takes to organise the feast.

They all gather in front of the beautiful 'Our Lady of Loreto' as they sing and dance along the local live band playing the village's favourite and original tunes dedicated to the feast’s patron saint.

You’ll also notice that most of them are holding large watermelons filled with punch that more often times than most involves alcohol. Now that’s one strong cocktail! As opposed to drinking alcohol the normal way as they do in normal feasts, the Ghajnsielem locals opt for a bit more flare and style instead.

Visitors will constantly be hearing ‘Viva x-Xemx’ chants throughout the night as Ghajnsielem feasts enthusiasts are known as ta’ xemx which means sun in English.

Nonetheless, the unique festa traditions at Balzunetta don’t stop there. When the festivities finally arrive at the square they lift the statue onto the pedestal, right in the middle of the square. Typically, in other feasts across the islands the statue is lifted through a lift attached to the pedestal but at Ghajnsielem they like to do things a little differently.

As their village patron saint is 'Our Lady of Loreto', who also happens to be the patron saint of aviation, they attach the statue to a mechanical line that crosses the whole square as it slowly moves towards the pedestal.

This fly-by show is done to symbolise the angels carrying the Our Lady of Loreto from Nazareth to Loreto as the people on the ground sing the ethereal Ave Maria.

However, the question that begs to be asked is where did the name ‘Balzunetta’ come from? Nobody is truly exactly sure but it seems that is has a connection to the Balzunetta area in Floriana, Malta. This area was very popular in the twentieth century for the number of bars.

It so happens that a Brtitish Garrison was stationed in Fort Chambray in Ghajnsielem and over two dozen bars were opened at the time near the area to serve British soldiers.  As the area was similar to the one in Floriana, they nicknamed it Balzunetta which eventually caught on as the name of the feast celebrations we know of today.

A special thanks goes to the Mayor of Ghajnsielem, Kevin Cauchi for all the information.

Charles Buttigieg 

24th August 2023


Emma Galea
Written by
Emma Galea
Emma is a Gozitan writer who loves all things related to English literature and history. When not busy studying or writing you will either find her immersed in a fictional book or at the cinema trying to watch as many films as she possibly can!

You may also like...
Culture

Jillian Mallia
Culture
Culture
There are only six cinemas around Malta and Gozo nowadays.

Benjamin Abela
Culture
Culture
The show was produced by the Malta Television Service.

Emma Galea
Culture
Culture
Many of the church’s prized possessions were also lost.

Emma Galea
Culture
Culture
A different Malta from the one we’re used to today.

Emma Galea