A vivid fixture on the Maltese cultural calendar for the past five centuries, Malta Carnival marks the week leading up to Ash Wednesday with a vivid proliferation of parades and parties. During these five full-throttle days, locals and visitors alike pull on spectacular costumes and extravagant masks, and take to the streets for a round of partying that lasts well into the early hours. It’s a fantastic time to visit Malta: the island’s warm hospitality and predilection for a good night out are given centre stage. Here’s what to look forward to at Malta Carnival.
Like most celebrations on the Maltese archipelago, food and drink play an important role at Malta Carnival. One of the stars of the show is the traditional carnival treat of prinjolata. This rich cream, chocolate and cherry-topped sponge cake, aptly described as a sweet mound of mess, is a uniquely local culinary immersion in the spirit of Malta Carnival.
A popular tradition at Malta Carnival is the parata dance. Most often performed by children, the parata recollects the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 and the struggle between the Knights of St. John and the Muslim Turks, re-enacted in the form of a light-hearted buoyant jig. The show has been a routine feature of the Malta Carnival for centuries, with prizes awarded for the most artistic interpretations.
A defining feature of Malta Carnival is its street parades, which flood Valletta with a cacophony of colourful costumes, spectacular parades and sprays of confetti. Malta’s capital is at the heart of the action, however villages and towns across the archipelago enter wholeheartedly into the spirit of things too. Venture further afield to see unique takes on Malta Carnival across the island. Nadur in Gozo offers a unique version of the festivities. Here, the costumes take on an altogether stranger mood, with sinister ghosts, scantily-clad clergymen and cross-dressing knights highlighting a delightful edge to the Gozitan humour.
The Maltese love a party, and once the sun has set over the parades, Malta Carnival gathers even more tempo. Revellers flock to the nightclubs, bars and pubs of Paceville in St Julian’s, whose DJs pump out high-octane beats all night long. The music and dancing continue well into the morning, when it’s time to do it all over again and enjoy yet another colourful day at Malta Carnival.
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