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The Feast of Immaculate Conception

StatueCospicua’s most colourful annual festivities start well before the month of December, but they culminate on the 8th of the month, when the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the parish, is held with all the pomp and splendour that go with traditional Maltese parish feasts. Cospicua stands almost alone in resisting the change, from winter to summer, that has occurred in Malta as regards the date on which the feasts of patron saints are solemnised, in spite of the fact that the month of December is notorious in Malta for inclement weather. Parish archival records attest the fact that as far back as the seventeenth century a feast was held annually in honour of the Virgin Mary. The people of Cospicua adorned then the statue of the Immaculate Conception, the one probably sculpted around the year 1680 by Suor Maria de Domenicis as best they could, and carried it shoulder-high in procession along Cospicua’s meandering streets. They scattered flowers, green leaves and twigs on the cold globigerina limestone of which the pavement slabs of their church were made. They used to fire petards, though admittedly in a very limited way. Music was played inside the church to accompany the singings of First and Second Vespers and the chanting of High Mass.

ProcessionSlowly but surely, this annual feast of the Immaculate Conception continued to increase in extent and splendour by the passing of years, especially with the introduction of military bands in the first years of the nineteenth century, and later on with the participation of the civic bands of the localities. In the last two hundred years, the people of Cospicua turned their attention towards embellishing their magnificent parish church, changing it into a truly brilliant showpiece for their exceptional talents. They covered the walls with crimson silk and brocade hangings; they suspended in theProcession main nave and transepts sparkling chandeliers; above the main altar, decorated with gigantic silver candlesticks of the first and second order, they hung form the vaulting arch a baldachin designed by Nicola Zammit; they decorated every single altar by a silver antependium boasting the finest and most intricate designs; they inaugurated heavily embroidered ceremonial religious vestments – and so on and so forth, the list of artifacts seems unending, turning the parish church into a blazing trail of glory. Pride of place, of course, is occupied by the silver statue of the Immaculate Conception.

March

The fortnight-long festivities, when the local Tota Pulchra Choir takes an active part, are attended by numerous devotees, but the climax is reached at the time of the procession, after the religious functions inside the church when music of the renowned composer Carlo Diacono is played, comes to an end. Every nook and corner of the city speaks a language of gaiety and liveliness; the squares and streets are awhirl with an array of colourful bunting; multi-coloured and vibrant rockets light up the normally dark skies of Cospicua and noisy band marches help to enliven the hearts and brighten the smiles of every Cospicuan. This splendour comes to an end once the processional statue of the Virgin Mary has been returned to its rightful place in the parish church. On the morrow, since it is December, the Cospicuans have to forgo the traditional outing, so much to the heart of other Maltese, to Malta’s finest beaches.

Church Celebrations

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