Every year on September 21st, the tiny Mediterranean island nation of Malta rejoices in celebrating Independence Day. This commemorates the 1964 Act of Parliament that established Malta as a fully independent sovereign republic separate from British control after centuries of foreign domination. Malta’s road to autonomy was long and arduous, making Independence Day a source of immense pride for Maltese citizens worldwide in their country’s freedom and endurance against adversity.
Malta’s strategic location in the central Mediterranean made it coveted by major powers through the ages beginning with the Phoenicians in 700 BC. The island was later ruled by various invaders including the Byzantines, Arabs, Sicilians, Knights of Saint John, French and British. Under the 1530 Rule of the Knights, Malta became an autonomous fief with allegiance to the Kingdom of Sicily. When the Knights were ousted by Napoleon in 1798, Malta fell under French then British protection by 1802 as a vital naval base.
Malta gained home rule status in 1921 but demands for full independence grew strong post-World War II as decolonization swept across Africa and Asia. In 1956, Britain attempted to federate Malta with the proposed State of Mediterrania, angering Maltese nationalism. This galvanized independence advocates who won a referendum on the issue in 1956 and elected a pro-sovereignty government in 1962. On September 21st, 1964 Malta was formally granted independence as a Commonwealth realm. The Maltese have joyfully commemorated this date ever since as a true symbol of freedom from centuries of foreign governance.
Independence Day Celebrations
September 21st ushers in a national holiday of festivities across Malta. In the capital Valletta, citizens flock to Independence Square by dawn to witness the raising of Malta’s new red and white flag alongside the European and Commonwealth flags. Patriotic speeches, musical performances and prayers give thanks for sovereignty. Parades by schools, bands, folklore groups and military contingents wind throughout city streets decorated in Maltese colors.
Firework spectaculars light up evenings over Grand Harbor as citizens partake in traditional folk dancing and feasts of Maltese cuisine. Cultural centers host art exhibits, plays and concerts saluting Maltese heritage. Sports tournaments help involve youth in commemoration. Maltese worldwide reconnect through community celebrations, often near embassies or consulates, pledging solidarity in defending Malta’s independence and identity. Acts of remembrance also pay respects to those who fought for freedom. The jovial mood reflects Malta’s pride in securing self-governance after centuries of occupying powers.
Malta’s persevering national character is honored through jubilant Independence Day commemorations recognizing the island’s long path to the freedom and self-determination it enjoys today after enduring successive foreign rulers for centuries.