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Figure 1: Map of the Malise Islands from



The Mnarja celebration in Malta is an annual celebration held on June 29 th . The celebration consists of many feasts, horse races, music, and ends with the annual march of the statues of Peter and Paul. It is a celebration honoring Peter and Paul, who are two very important members of the Catholic Church. It was started by peasants in the 15 th century, and mirrors what Turner and Turner describe as a “rite of passage” celebration. (Turner and Turner 1982) The celebration has not changed much over the years, but it is becoming more and more popular to many tourists.

Top - A picture of the famous statues of Peter and Paul on Mnarja day.


  Mnarja is a religious feast which celebrates the feasts of Peter and Paul, who are two of the most important figures in the church. Mnarja is held annually on the 29 th of June. Mnarja is very similar to the liminality phase of what Turner and Turner describe as a “rite of passage celebration.” (Turner and Turner 1982) The Mnarja celebrations last over a week and consist of traditional feasts, horse races, music, and ends with the annual march of the statue of Peter and Paul. This is one of the most exciting times of the year for everyone in Malta . It was started by the peasants during their one week break every year. They began the celebrations in the 15 th century, but it is enjoyed by everyone in Malta today.



Context of Malta

Malta is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea , just south of Italy . It is one of the ten new members added to the European Union March 1, 2004 . Malta is a very small island, being only twice the size of Washington , D.C. The total area of the island is 316 square km. The weather is very typical of the Mediterranean with its hot dry summers and wet and mild winters. Because of its location and lack of natural unsalted water sources, the supply of drinking water is very scarce.

  There are nearly 400,000 people who live on the island. The Maltese seem to be quite healthy overall, and 98% of the people who live in Malta are Roman Catholic. This strong relationship with religion really carries over into the celebrations of this great nation. Malta seems to have a representative republic, where men and women over the age of 18 may vote. It seems very similar to the United States besides the face that the US is much more technologically advanced.



Origins of Mnarja

Mnarja is the name given to the annual celebrations in Malta that honor the feasts Peter and Paul. Since the 15 th Century; this has been a special day, especially for the peasants who used to have their annual break at this time of the year. It was originally named Luminaria for the torchlight procession at the cathedral's façade, but was then given the name Mnarja by the knights of St. John .



The most famous observable event of Mnarja besides the feasts is the Procession of the Statue. The statue is a 17 th century titular statue made in Marseilles . It is a detailed statue of Peter and Paul, which is displayed in a parade through the streets on the last day of Mnarja. It is the largest portion of the celebration, and is the final party at the end of Mnarja week.

  Also very popular during Mnarja week are the horse races that take place on a very steep road leading into Nadur. These races are highly competitive, and the horses are put to extreme tests in the high temperatures. It is the most competitive event of Mnarja. .



The artifact above is a picture of the actual statues of Peter and Paul that are paraded through the streets of Malta on Mnarja day.





Prognosis for Mnarja

  Mnarja has been, and always will be a very special time in Malta . Mnarja is ingrained in the Culture, and is a tradition everyone looks forward to. While the tradition stays alive, and most of the celebration is repeated every year, Mnarja is changing. It is becoming more of a tourist attraction which is bringing in many people outside of Maltanese Culture. It is great that outsiders are so interested in the actions of this great tradition, but the celebration is starting to cater to their needs. The food is changing. What used to be a celebration dominated totally by fried rabbit is starting to sell hot dogs and hamburgers to tourists. This is causing some of the locals to also eat this non-traditional food. This would not be a bad thing if the traditional fried rabbit were not so important to the celebration. Besides the minor affects of tourists, Mnarja today is as strong as it has ever been. It is still a week to look forward to for many residents of Malta . (Wismayer 2002)




The Mnarja Celebration in Malta is very closely related to the liminality phase of a rite of passage celebration as discussed in Turner and Turner. (Turner and Turner 1982) The Sacra is communicated through everything from the religious symbols to the annual horse races. Mnarja is still a celebration that the citizens of Malta look forward to every year. Although it was started by the peasants during their annual break from work, it continues today with every social class. Mnarja affects everyone in Malta , as well as many tourists. Some people have tried to cater to the tourists, but the tourists will never be able to ruin Mnarja because is its popularity with the citizens of Malta.



Internet References Cited


Peer-Reviewed References Cited

    Cohen, Abner

    •  Annual Review of Anthropology : Political Symbolism Vol. 8. (1979), pp. 87-113


    Douglas, Mary

    •  RAIN : Lying and Deceit, No. 2.(May-Jun., 1974), pp. 1-2.


    McLeod, Norma

    •  Annual Review of Anthropology : Ethno musicological Research and Anthropology, Vol. 3. (1974) pp. 99-11

  • Shore , Chris

    •  Anthropology Today : The European Communities: And the Construction of Europe , Vol. 8, No. 3 (Jun., 1992), pp. 10-11.

    Turner, Terence

    1993    Cultural Anthropology : Anthropology and Multiculturalism: What is Anthropology That Multiculturalists Should be Mindful of It?, Vol. 8, No. 4. (Nov., 1993), pp. 411-429


    Turner, Victor

    1982.    Celebration: Studies in Festivity and Ritual. Washington D.C. ; Smithsonian Institution Press., esp Chap 4 'Religious Celebrations' (Turner and Turner).


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