On the Wednesday after Easter, the country of Malta celebrates the feast
of St. Gregory.
Since the late 17th century, the Maltese people have marked this national feast
with a religious procession, led by the Bishop of Malta. The procession starts at
the chapel of St. Clement (outside the town of Zejtun) to St. Catherine Church,
today called St. Gregory Church, in Zejtun. After Mass people celebrate with picnics
and often the first swim of the season.
The tradition began as an act of thanksgiving for God's intervention when the bubonic
plague hit the island between 1675-76. About 11,000 Maltese died from the plague.
At one time the feast was considered so important that among the promises a
new husband had to make on his wedding day was to take his bride to Zejtun for
the feast of St. Gregory.