Malta has been manufacturing phenomenal fireworks for centuries, and regularly uses their astonishing shells in various celebrations throughout the year. Currently, there are over thirty-five fireworks factories located within this small island archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean—all of which are dedicated year-round to the art of pyrotechnics. Although most firework factory workers do this job on a part time basis, a few fireworks factories actually employ fulltime staff. To make a long story short, fireworks are a major part of Malta’s historic and religious traditions and they continue to evolve and improve in a variety of complicated, beautiful ways (based primarily on a combination of generational experience and now modern technology).

The practice of making and using fireworks on Malta dates back to the Order of the Knights of St. John in the mid 1500s AD (this Order also gave the Islands their eight-pointed Maltese Cross). During that time period, fireworks—Malta’s magnificent fireworks displays—were only used for very special celebrations such as the appointment of a Grand Master or the selection of a new Pope. They gained an international reputation back then for creating spectacular displays, and now, almost 500 years later, they still have the same well-deserved international reputation.

14th edition of the Malta International Fireworks Festival

The International Fireworks Festival has become a landmark event on the fireworks-laden Maltese calendar of festivals. This year marked the 14th edition of this international fireworks spectacular (which began at the end of April, 2015) and commemorated Malta’s accession in the European Union on May 1, 2004. Spread over three separate days in 3 separate locations (4/25 in Marsaxlokk, 4/30 in Valletta Grand Harbour and 5/2 in Bugibba), this festival is unique to the islands because it allows both local and foreign fireworks factories to take part and to compete against one another.

This year’s festival officially began on Saturday, April 25th, in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. Three local fireworks factories and two foreign factories took part by showcasing their pyromusical ability. The local fireworks factories representing Malta were: St. Mary Fireworks Factory from Ghaxaq, Lourdes Fireworks Factory from Qrendi and St. Andrew’s Band Fireworks Factory from Luqa; the foreign factories representing their home countries were: Thailand Fireworks from Thailand (which took part in this festival for the first time ever), and A.P.E. di Parente Romualdo from Italy. As you would expect, the first night of Malta’s International Fireworks Festival was absolutely incredible, and thousands of people turned out to watch these intricate, beautifully performed, well-choreographed pyromusicals.

Yes, the Maltese Islands are renowned for their love of fireworks, and they proved their phenomenal pyrotechnic ability once again with this spectacular secular festival

The second night of the event, the National Fireworks Competition—April 30th—was held in the Valletta Grand Harbour. The local fireworks factories which competed that night were: Lourdes Fireworks Factory from Qrendi, St. Mary Fireworks Complex from Mgarr and Socjeta Piroteknika 15 ta’ Awissu from Mosta. It was a very tough competition between the locals, and the evening events concluded with a spectacularly extraordinary display created by Pyro Emotions of Italy that literally illuminated the entire Valletta Grand Harbour.

The festival closed Saturday, May 2nd, in the little tourist village of Bugibba featuring a pyromusical performed by last year’s winner, UK’s Pyrotex. The presentation of the awards also took place that same evening, and were handed out by the Hon. Minister Dr. Edward Zammit Lewis in the presence of the MTA Chairman, Dr. Gavin Gulia and MTA CEO, Mr. Paul Bugeja. Trophies were awarded to the winners of the both competitions held the previous two nights, and this year BOTH competitions—the International Pyromusical Competition held in Marsaxlokk on Saturday and the National Fireworks Competition held in Valletta on Thursday—were won by the same company: Lourdes Fireworks Factory of Qrendi. A.P.E di Parente Romualdo of Italy claimed the second prize in the International Pyromusical Competition, followed by St Mary Fireworks Factory of Ghaxaq which came in 3rd. Second prize in the National Fireworks Festival was claimed by 15 ta’ Awissu Fireworks Factory of Mosta, followed by St Mary Fireworks Factory of Mgarr in third place.

Even after the third night’s competitions had concluded and the trophies had been awarded, the event continued with the ground fireworks displays performed by seven local fireworks companies: Our Lady of Consolation Fireworks Factory of Gudja, St Mary Fireworks Factory of Qrendi, St Mary Fireworks Factory of Mqabba, St Catherine Fireworks Factory of Zurrieq, St Mary Fireworks Factory of Ghaxaq, St Andrew’s Fireworks Factory Socjeta Filarmonika L-Unjoni of Luqa, and St Michael Fireworks Factory of Lija.

Yes, the Maltese Islands are renowned for their love of fireworks, and they proved their phenomenal pyrotechnic ability once again with this spectacular secular festival. Fireworks definitely form an important core of almost any Maltese celebration here, but it is critically important to remember that most of their annual fireworks festivals are grounded and intermixed with their deeply held religious beliefs. From here on out (almost every weekend) their fireworks festivals will honor religious icons and every display will be mired in tradition.

I was fortunate enough to get to take photographs for the 2nd time during this year’s events in Malta. If you are interested, you can see more of my photography on my Facebook page: keithbuhagiarphotography. I will be adding many more photographs to this page as the festival season progresses.