Every year on December 13th, the Maltese people celebrate Republic Day.
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The annual day of remembrance began in 1974, when Malta no longer called Queen Elizabeth their head of state and instead elected a President as a republic. In their own native tongue they call this day the ‘Jum ir-Repubblika’.
History of Republic Day
The Maltese people elected to become a part of the British Empire after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in which Great Britain liberated them from the marauding French occupiers, who themselves had driven out the long-time rulers the crusading Knights of St. John. The island eventually became extremely important to the British during the years after the Suez Canal opened, when it turned into a critical shipping stop on the Mediterranean Sea route to India. In World War II, Malta again proved its importance for its proximity to Axis territory and shipping lanes around Italy. The Allied invasion of Italy actually launched from Malta.
After successfully negotiating for independence from the British Empire in 1964, Malta evolved into a Commonwealth realm, with the British monarch remaining as head of state. It was actually as a result of the Malta Labour Party victory of 1971 that the status quo changed once again. The Labour Party started pushing the concept of turning Malta into a republic with its own president. After Republic Day saw the constitution drastically altered on December 13, 1974, Malta made its last change of status into a republic in the Commonwealth of Nations. Sir Anthony Mamo began his term as the very first ever President of Malta.
Republic Day is celebrated in grand style throughout Malta – in Valletta (the capital of Malta) and Marsa (the town across from Valletta). The National Festivities Committee is responsible for organizing the major Republic Day events every year. Some of the popular activities and events on Republic Day are:
- The Award Ceremony where the President of Malta bestows awards on those deserving individuals for meritorious service or for having garnered personal success that brings fame and honor to Malta
- The wreath laying ceremonies at all notable monuments, such as the Republic Day monument in Marsa
- Military parades in Valletta and Marsa
- The Annual Band Concert at Manoel Theater in Valletta where a different local town or village band plays traditional, popular, and new band marches every year
- Fireworks displays, particularly over Grand Harbour which lies between Valletta and Marsa
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