Celebrating carnival is a yearly tradition in Malta, dating back over five centuries to the rule of the Knights of St. John. It’s a time when the streets come to life and there’s plenty to see and do. If you visit Malta between February and March, you’ll be in for a real treat of entertainment and celebration. Here’s a rundown of what to expect!
‘Carne Vale’ to Carnival – Where did Malta’s Carnival come from?
Carne Vale is where the name Carnival is derived from. Celebrations started out as the final meat-eating and revelry prior to the start of Lent leading up to Easter. Historically when lent was very strictly observed, people were keen to enjoy themselves as much as possible before giving up the good things, so, it became a custom during carnival time to indulge in advance of the 40 days of restraint that lay ahead. Social norms also no longer applied during carnival, men dressed as women, masked up people indulged in risqué activities and there was temporarily no divide between masters and servants – it was a fairly hedonistic time.
This tradition has been carried through the centuries and the party still takes place in the Spring time, so, this year from the 29th February till the 5th March the islands of Malta and Gozo will come alive with its unique celebration, in Maltese Il-Karnival ta’Malta.
What to expect during the Malta Carnival 2019
The official carnival is based in Malta’s vibrant capital city Valletta, and in Victoria (Rabat) in Gozo. Locals and tourists young and old celebrate in the streets from morning until night, day after day in lavish costumes enjoying the atmosphere. Music is played loud. Expect amazing dancing, hilarious satirical sketches and floats galore. Carnival enthusiasts will spend all year building their huge, remarkable floats from papier-mâché and painting them in all the colours of the rainbow. Some are even mechanised adding to the theatre of the whole spectacle. The themes will range from the latest Hollywood blockbuster to current affairs, of course taking a stab at political figures. The floats really are something special and provide excellent colourful photo opportunities for budding travel bloggers and instagrammers.
The Nadur Carnival in Gozo – Adults Only
It might surprise you that the small village of Nadur on the island of Gozo is the main attraction for many locals for a ‘fringe’ carnival. The Spontaneous carnival, as it is known, has an increasing international pull. It is can be quite macabre, think Halloween. It is a no holds barred festival with a very adult only feel, so may not be best to take the family along! R evellers can be anyone or anything, the themes are far more out-there than the mainstream carnivals and costumes can be revealing and provocative. Nadur’s three-day carnival is a celebration that is most probably the closest to the original revelry of the 16th century pre-lent hedonism.
Indeed, Carnival in Malta is a must-see…
Whichever carnival is for you during your trip to Malta and Gozo ensure you enjoy sometime to explore the vibrant capital Valletta in between enjoying the festivities. After all, you need to rest your feet, and eat! There are many bars, clubs and restaurants to visit in-between carousing.
Risette in the heart of Valletta, on Old Theatre Street, is certainly one not to be missed. The casual fine dining restaurant, thanks to Chef Andrew Borg and his team is popular for its innovative menus – expect wild combinations such as goats cheese ice-cream, as well as some more traditional Maltese dishes; plus phenomenal wines and champagnes one can try, before heading back to the celebrations!