A Complete Guide to Carnival Celebrations in Malta and Gozo.
From bright illuminated floats to dress-up costumes, here’s a full breakdown of what goes on in Malta and Gozo’s Carnival.
Carnival is celebrated in the winter, with a 7-day program full of illuminated floats, bright costumes, traditional rituals, and grotesque masks. In the weeks leading up to carnival, you can feel the excitement in the air, and the frivolous attitude is contagious.
A Brief History and Guide to Modern Day Carnival in Malta
When Carnival is mentioned loads of bright images of costumed revellers, parades, and hedonistic rituals come to mind. Yet no matter where you go, there’s always something unique about the way carnival is celebrated. That’s definitely the case when it comes to carnival in Malta.
Carnival in Malta and Gozo goes back to the arrival of the Knights of St John in 1535. To this day, the carnival in Malta has kept its traditional roots; a daytime parade of elaborately designed colourful floats, dance competitions in fancy get-ups, and children running around in all sorts of costumes.
The heart of the action for younger revelers and families takes place in Valletta in Malta, or Victoria in Gozo. Every village organises a daytime carnival with dancing competitions and float competitions which local groups of enthusiasts spend months preparing for. Folklore rituals are practiced on both islands, with some variations across different villages. You could also taste carnival in Malta; Prinjolata is a colourful, traditional carnival treat that can be found in all the local supermarkets and cafes.
If you’re in the mood for a more adult atmosphere there’s the Nadur grotesque carnival in Gozo, which is known for its outrageous and spontaneous nature. It’s the only carnival in Malta (and the whole world) that is celebrated in such a way. Throughout carnival week, the streets of Nadur invite a multitude of masked and hooded creatures to roam and rave. It’s rather unique to Nadur so the best way to understand it, is to experience it yourself. Visitors usually describe it as a mash-up of Halloween and Carnival, but we’ll let you get your own impression of it.
Here are 4 Carnival activities to look out for:
1. Colours, Floats, and Dancing
Daytime carnival activities include a parade of vibrant floats and dance competitions in extravagant getups. Dance festivities start out with a Maltese folklore dance called ‘il-Maltija’, where a number of locals dress up in traditional clothing and dance about to folklore music.
2. Traditional Events
Carnival is also an opportunity to experience tradition when studying English in Malta. Two uniquely Maltese carnival activities are called ‘ġostra’ and ’kukkanja’. The ‘kukkanja’ involves hanging a selection of hams, sausages, and meats on a greasy pole in the middle of a square. Participants have to climb up to earn their prize. The ’ġostra’ is similar, only this time participants have to run up a greasy 30-foot pole over the sea.
3. Nadur Spontaneous Carnival
Nadur Carnival is known for its outrageous costumes that are mash-up of the grotesque and macabre, cross-dressing, and alternative. Locals disguise themselves in anything from bedsheets to sackcloths, often with a satirical tone. It’s a spontaneous carnival, so ditch the eBay costumes and get creative to fit into the grotesque, fervent atmosphere. If you’re studying English in Malta or Gozo during carnival, go to Nadur on Friday or Saturday evening, which is when the madness’s at its peak.
4. Taste of Carnival
It’s not exactly an activity, but a must nonetheless- you can’t find it anywhere else in the world. If you’re studying English in Malta around carnival time keep an eye out for Prinjolata in all the cafes, pastry shops and supermarkets. The delicious colourful treat is prepared especially for carnival in Malta.
Add more activities to your trip – combine your holiday with English courses.
All English courses at BELS are delivered in a communicative approach, with a friendly and sociable atmosphere within the classrooms. It’s a great opportunity to boost your English skills, meet like-minded people and make friends to explore the islands together. Read about our adult English courses available in the winter season.