Hamrun is a largish and mostly nondescript working men’s town just a mile or so outside Valletta. By Maltese standards it is a relatively “new” town, its lavishly decorated if stylistically confused church only being completed in 1875 and the town itself only becoming a parish in 1881. Hamrun has a wide and fine shop-filled main road which is unfortunately also the main trunk road from Valletta to Rabat and Mdina and therefore choked with traffic at most times of the day. But for one day a year all the traffic disappears and Saint Joseph’s High Road becomes the largest pedestrian area in Malta as Hamrun celebrates the feast of its patron – the somewhat obscure Saint Cajetan.
The evening marches are spread out over a whole week but it’s the traditional Sunday morning march that is the real peak of merriment and boisterousness. The town’s two band clubs of St. Joseph (nicknamed Tal-Miskina) and St.Cajetan (Tat-Tamal) participate in this march and both attract a sizeable crowd of followers, loyally dressed in the clubs colours – blue and red respectively. Due to the immense rivalry between the clubs the band marches take a different route and do not meet. Both marches are also obliged to start and end at the same time – start time is normally around 11am and the marathon marches continue until 3pm, usually in blazing sunlight and temperatures hovering around the 30c mark. The clubs also have a signed agreement not to let things get out of hand and this is religiously adhered to – not least because there are hefty financial penalties relating to any departure from acceptable behaviour.
It’s truly a mad feast of colour, sweaty good fun, beer aplenty and one which every Hamruniz will tell you is unique to the islands. Trust me, I’m one.