Il-Kunsill Lokali ta' Ħal Għaxaq
Church and square of Ħal Għaxaq decorated for the village feast
|Motto: Laeta Sustineo|
|Borders||Birżebbuġa, Gudja, Luqa, Marsaxlokk, Santa Luċija, Tarxien, Żejtun, Żurrieq|
|• Mayor||Darren Abela (PL)|
|• Total||3.9 km2 (1.5 sq mi)|
|Population (March 2011)|
|• Density||1,200/km2 (3,000/sq mi)|
|Demonym||Għaxqi (m), Għaxqija (f), Għaxqin (pl)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Patron saint||Assumption of our Lady in heaven - Santa Marija|
|Day of festa||15 August|
Ħal Għaxaq (Maltese pronunciation: [aːʃaʔ]) is a village in the south of Malta, with a population of 4,509 people as of March 2011. It is mainly a residential area with a vast area used for agriculture still. The village's name may be derived from the Maltese word meaning delight, or it may be related to the noble family named Axiak (also spelt Axiaq or Asciak) which had feudal lands in the area in the fourteenth century. The village's main church is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, popularly known in Maltese as Santa Marija (St.Mary) which is therefore the village's patron saint. Celebrations take place from 30 July to 15 August annually. A secondary feast is celebrated on the week before the first Sunday of June. This is dedicated to St.Joseph, husband of Mary. During these feasts the village is decorated with highly artistic statues and colorful lights and banners.
Saint Mary's Parish Church
Ħal Għaxaq's main church is dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady and it is renowned for its beautiful baroque architecture. The present church was consegrated on 2 May 1784, after around 50 years of hard work by the villagers, which gave a helping hand in building their religious shrine. One could find a large number of artistic and valuable items in this church which were made by renowned Maltese and foreign artists. Of these one could find a number of highly artistic statues which all seek great devotion in a way or another. The titular statue which depicts the Assumption in heaven of our Lady was carved in wood by Maltese Mariano Gerada in 1808 and it is quite popular for its beauty and considered, not only as one of the artist's masterpieces but also one of the most beautiful statues in Maltese Churches. Another statue which could be found in this church is that of the Main Secondary Feast of Saint Joseph which was made by Fratelli Bertarelli of Milan in Italy in the year 1932 and is also carved in wood. Other statues are those of Our Lady of the Rosary carved in wood by Alessandro Farrugia, Our Lady of Fátima and a set of traditional eight statues depicting the passion of Jesus Christ. These were made throughout the years with statues of Maltese artists Peppi Vella,Carlo Darmanin and family Camilleri Cauchi, namely Alfred and Aaron Camilleri Cauchi. The statue of dead christ known as Il-Monument was brought to Ħal Għaxaq from Rome in the 18th century. The paintings which decorate the church's ceiling were painted by Emvin Cremona during the 1960s while other works of art date back to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries mostly painted by famous Maltese artists; Gian Nikol Buhagiar, Francesco Zahra, Rokku Buhagiar and Ganni Vella above others. Apart from the Titular feast of Saint Mary which is celebrated annually on 15 August, other feasts are celebrated along the year. These are; the commemoration of the Passion of Jesus Christ and his rise from dead- with the traditional Good Friday procession, which in Ħal Għaxaq is held on Palm Sunday evening, celebrated a Sunday before Easter, the Main Secondary feast of Saint Joseph celebrated on the 1st Sunday of June, Corpus Christi on the 2nd Sunday of June and Our Lady of the Rosary on the 2nd Sunday of October. These are all organised by their respective confraternities. Last but not least, on the night between 24 and 25 December, a solemn mass is held to celebrate Christ's birth, popularly known as Christmas.
Ħal Għaxaq is popularly renowned for its two feasts which are celebrated on a large scale on 15 August and the first Sunday of June. The Holy family seeks a great devotion in this village, in fact it is the only village in Malta which have its Titular and Main Secondary feast dedicated to Saint Mary and Saint Joseph respectively, which together with Jesus, they form the Holy Family. Throughout the years two Social and Musical Societies emerged in the village and they contribute for the external celebrations of their respective patron saint.
Saint Mary Band Club Ħal Għaxaq A.D 1873
Most information taken from www.santamarijaghaxaq.com
St. Mary's Band Club has a very interesting history. Back in time, precisely in 1808, this club was set up from simply a wine shop to the majestic band club present today.
The feast of St Mary has been and still is a popular feast among the Maltese people especially where the village church has as its Titular St. Mary. Traditionally St Mary is linked to the Santa Maria Convoy which brought much needed food supplies to the Maltese. This took place exactly in 15 August 1943, during the peak of the Second World War. Having its church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary since 1511, the village of Ghaxaq in the south east of Malta is no exception.
Since 1808, the village is documented to have celebrated this feast, both the religious part and the secular part, with vigor and pomp. The religious aspect was reflected in the fact that an artistic statue was made by a well known sculpture Mariano Gerada. This was financed by Gio Maria Farrugia (1763 – 1828) and costed 800 skud. Of course an artistic plinth was also made. The Farrugia family tree is endorsed at St. Mary's Band Club. It is futile to stress how popular the feast was to the villagers. In those days they had their wine shop. They talked mostly about the feast, year in year out. One shop was called Ta’ Indri l-Mikk. People used to meet there and given the aspirations of the locals, this stop was the forerunner of the present band club. Indri himself, took it upon himself to organize the outside (secular) feast of St. Mary. The square in front of the church was decorated with colourful bundings. The church’s façade was illuminated with hundreds of oil lamps. This was the work of the Gatt, Duca, Desira and Scicluna's families.
In 1873 the people named above explored the possibility of moving from this shop to much bigger premises. Agreement was reached on buying a big house in the square known as Ta’ Bukkettuwa. After initial work was completed the club came to be known as Circolo La Stella.
It was at Ta' Petistina that the first general sitting was held and it was agreed that the first official committee members were to be drawn following a ballot. The first steering committee was elected and was made up of Felic Gatt, Joseph Grima, Joseph Scicluna and Geraldu Scicluna. More members were added like Agius, Abdilla and Gravina. Later on, in 1935, a band was also formed under the name Santa Maria Band.
Many years passed since then and today the band club has a great number of members and followers. Today, the Band Club is also renowned for the organisation of the Ghaxaq Music Festival, a 2 to 5 day festival organised before the feast of Saint Mary in August. Since 2008, the Festival has featured renowned World Artists and Tribute Bands such as; Tracy Shields in a Tribute to Celine Dion(2008), Rhapsody UK in a Tribute to the legendary Queen(2009 and 2011), U2UK(2009), ABBA UK(2010), Gimme ABBA(2011), Sheyla Bonnick from the original BoneyM(2011) and the legendary group SMOKIE(2012). This festival actually started in 1998 as a Street Concert and since then it also featured a lot of Maltese groups and singers such as; Tribali, Wintermoods, Scream Daisy, Freddie Portelli, Joe Brown Band and renowned Maltese "Għannejja" among other well known local artists and Dj's such as; Carl Bee, Dj Ruby and Dj Armani.
The Club also possesses a lot of artistic street decorations, having a large number of statues and their pedestals dating back to more than 100 years ago. These together with new sets of drapes, chandeliers and other statues decorate beautifully the village during the first two weeks of August.
Fireworks also play an important part during the Maltese traditional feast. The Saint Mary Fireworks Factory consists of a number of voluntary professionals in the art of firework production. These people, have also achieved 1st place in a number of local and International Fireworks Festivals both for the aerial as well as the ground fireworks. The Saint Mary Fireworks Team was also invited to take part as International guests in The 2011 FireworksOne Festival at Foggia,San Severo, Italy. Moreover after the huge success they achieved in 2011, the Ghaxaq Local Council also presented them with the "Ġieħ Ħal Għaxaq", a prestigious award given annually to people who work and achieve success for the village.
Thus, although a small village, the people of Ghaxaq have at heart the feast of St. Mary and this is reflected in their dedication shown during 3 whole weeks of religious and secular activities for St. Mary’s feast.
This information and more could be found in the society's website www.santamarijaghaxaq.com
Saint Joseph Band Club
The Saint Joseph Band Club was established in 1874 with the principal object of organising and enhancing the feast of St. Joseph in collaboration with the Confraternity of Saint Joseph, an older Catholic Church organisation dating back to around 1689. Since then, the Band Club has taken under its remit the external festivities while the Confraternity has concentrated on the liturgical celebrations . Being the first band club in Ħal Għaxaq, the Club used to participate also in the feast of the Assumption of St. Mary until the early 1950s, when this participation was discontinued.
The feast of Saint Joseph is presently celebrated annually on the first Sunday of June, though in past years the date was earlier in May.
The Band Club's biggest ever project is surely its premises. During a project spanning from the early nineteen-eighties till the official opening in May 2000, the Club acquired both previously-rented and adjacent property, demolished the existing structures and rebuilt a unitary building. The building is considered as a prime example of Maltese baroque-style architecture, and in certain aspects takes Maltese craftsmanship to new heights. A visitor to the building should not fail to note the symmetrical curved staircase topped by a dome structure, the various relief sculpture adorning various walls, ceilings, cornices and pedestals and the first floor halls.
At first-floor level, there is also a niche with the older statue of Saint Joseph, which was replaced in 1933 with the present devotional statue retained in the Church for the devotion of the Catholic community. The older statue has been restored this year 2010 and it transpired that the wooden statue was probably manufactured in Malta at around 1650. This date is corroborated both by the style of the carving and by the evident aging of the wood. It is interesting to note that the present Ħal Għaxaq church was built at around that same time. The statue is therefore key proof to the longevity of the devotion to Saint Joseph and has also significant historical and artistic value, being in absolute terms the oldest existing devotional statue in Ħal Għaxaq and actually one of the oldest still in existence on the entire Maltese Islands.
The Band Club is also in possession of two other separate properties: a fireworks factory that is renowned for the quality of its festive fiery production; and a feast decorations factory, comprising a workshop and stores for the Baroque-style festive street decorations. The fireworks factory has indeed written one of the most beautiful pages of Maltese pyrotechnic art and artisanship in general when it won the Villa de Bilbao international fireworks festival edition of 2010 against world-renowned international opponents. The achievement was lauded widely as an example of excellence for Maltese artisanship, even by the Maltese Civil Authorities, considering that Malta rarely if ever registers international success at high-profile events of any sort given its very small size and population.
The actual feast of Saint Joseph is celebrated throughout ten days. While big crowds of people throng the streets of Ħal Għaxaq, the village puts on its best dress in green (the colour of the Saint Joseph clan) and is entirely decorated with the decorations manufactured or otherwise managed by the above-mentioned workshop. The Club's own band and other guest bands play the typical Maltese band-marches to the general merry-making of the Josephite supporters, guests and tourists who are always welcome to join. Street concerts are also held, many times attracting national attention. Various fireworks displays are held throughout the week, culminating in the Saturday night show known as 'The Flames of Fire' and the Sunday evening 'kaxxa nfernali'. The final celebration is the devotional procession of the statue of Saint Joseph through the village streets - a fitting conclusion for the Patron Saint. This feast has over the years increased its popularity and has become a regular crowd-puller, putting Ħal Għaxaq in the top echelons of Maltese festivals.
"Ite ad Josef".
Another yearly event which is increasing in its popularity is the spontaneous Carnival celebration held in February.
Interesting places in Ħal Għaxaq
- Sea Shelled House-"A Unique House in Malta decorated with Sea Shells" (St. Mary Street-after the church)
- St. Philip's Chapel (at St. Philip Square)
- St. Lucy's Chapel (at the Outskirts of the village)
- Christ the Redeemer Chapel(at the outskirts of the village)
- Together with the Parish Church and the two masterpieces, the Band Clubs(as mentioned above)
Zones in Ħal Għaxaq
- Bir id-Deheb (Well of Gold)
- Ħas-Saptan (Saptan Town)
- Il-Miksur (The Broken)
- Qasam Ħal-Dmikki
- Tal-Barrani (Foreigner's Village)
- Tal-Ġebel (Rocks' Village)
- Tal-Qattus (Cat's Village)
- Tal-Wilġa (Open Field's Village)
Ħal Għaxaq main roads
- Dawret Ħal Għaxaq (Ħal Għaxaq By-Pass)
- Triq G.M. Farrugia (G.M. Farrugia Street)
- Triq il-Belt Valletta (Valletta Road)
- Triq il-Ġistakor (Tail-Coat Street)
- Triq il-Garakol (Garakol Street)
- Triq il-Gudja (Gudja Road)
- Triq il-Milwa (Skein Street)
- Triq iż-Żejtun (Zejtun Road)
- Triq San Filippu (St. Philip Street)
- Pjazza San Filippu (St. Philip Square)
- Triq Santa Marija (St. Mary Street)
- Vjal il-Labour (Labour Avenue)
- Triq it-Tgezwira
- Triq Ganmari Dalli
- Pjazza Santu Rokku (St. Rocco Square)
- Triq San Pawl (St. Paul Street)
- Triq il-Knisja (church's street)
- Triq Marjanu Gerada
Ħal Għaxaq Local Council
The current Ħal Għaxaq local council members are:
- Darren Abela (Mayor - PL)
- Emmanuel Vassallo (PL)
- Agius Rose (PN)
- Keith Fenech (PL)
- Marianne Schembri (PL)
M.U.S.E.U.M. (male section)
Feasts in Ħal Għaxaq
Saint Mary-15 August
Saint Joseph-1st Sunday of June