Il-Vitorja, as it is known in Malta or Otto Settembre, is a public holiday celebrated every year on the 8th September. This honours Malta’s two most significant sieges – in 1565 and in 1940, during the Second World War. On this day the Maltese also commemorate the birth of the Virgin Mary, known as Il-Bambina, whose feast is celebrated in Senglea, Naxxar, Mellieha and Xaghra, Gozo.
The historical prominence of this feast was initiated during the Great Siege, in which the Knights of Malta battled the Ottomans. In 1565, after three months in battle, the Ottomans retreated from Vittoriosa and Senglea. Although this was not the last battle, as fighting continued in St. Paul’s Bay for some time, it can be said that the withdrawal from the South marked the end of the Great Siege, which is renowned as one of the bloodiest sieges in the world and the longest in Malta. On the 7th September 1565, the Gran Soccorso fleet arrived from Sicily, which prompted the Turks to surrender.
In 1943, Italy joined the Allies in fighting against the Nazis, after having previously supported the Germans. This marked the end of bombing in Malta.
The Vitorja is marked by diverse activities in several Maltese villages. Moreover in Valletta, the Capital, the day starts with cultural activities in the main square, which include literature, music and art exhibitions. A parade by the Armed Forces marches down Republic Street until it arrives at the Co-Cathedral of St. John, where the Prime Minister is saluted and the national anthem is sung. A commemorative Mass is attended by the highest authorities in the country. The President later places a wreath on the Great Siege Monument. The traditional Regatta is held from mid-day at the Grand Harbour. Various teams from Cospicua, Vittoriosa, Senglea, Kalkara, Marsa, Marsamxett and Birzebbugia compete in rowing races in the main categories. The winning club is awarded the highly-coveted Shield trophy.
On the Sister Island of Gozo, celebrations include a commemorative night in Pjazza Independenza in Victoria. The event is attended by the Minister for Gozo.
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