This feast is one of the oldest that is celebrated in Malta and Gozo. It commemorates two important saints in Maltese religious lore – St. Peter and St. Paul. The word luminarja is derived from the Latin word Luminare – to light up. This was how people manifested their joy in recognition of a particular feast, with lighting being offered by burning bonfires and candles. This feast has somewhat moved away from the traditional village festa style, and has developed a different type of merriment which is held in Buskett Gardens on the eve of the 29th June – the day of the feast.
The liturgical services are held in the Mdina Cathedral. During the late afternoon hours, numerous horse and donkey races are held in a country lane situated just below and at some distance from Mdina. The contenders vie for the Palju – a traditional banner that is presented as a trophy to the winners of various categories of races – which in olden times used to be presented to the winners by none other than the Grand Master of the Order.
The feast of St. Peter and St. Paul is also celebrated in Nadur in Gozo, this time in the usual festive manner that is normally held in towns and villages.
Mnarja 2017 is being organised by the Rural Festivities Unit within the Parliamentary Secretariat for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights with the collaboration of the Arts Council and the Agrarian Soc.