Carnival in Malta is something everyone needs to experience at least once in their life. With its bright costumes, lively celebrations, and colourful floats, this tradition holds a special place in the annual Maltese calendar.
Carnival’s roots in Malta go way back to at least the mid-15th century. It dates back to 1535, five years after the arrival of the Order of St John on the island, under the role of Grand Master Piero de Ponte.
Since then, this Maltese tradition underwent several transformations, including numerous bans imposed in 1639 by Grand Master Giovanni Paolo Lascaris. Among these was a bando forbidding women from wearing masks.
Luckily, these bans were eventually lifted. Fast-forward a couple of centuries, and Carnival in Malta is an event most locals participate in.
So if you’re visiting Malta in February, joining one or more carnival celebrations is a must.
It’s an immersion into the local culture. Plus, it makes for an unforgettable memory too.
In this article, we’ll give you the lowdown on Carnival Celebrations in Malta, and what to expect during these jam-packed days.
Carnival in Malta: Dates
Carnival is celebrated during the five days before Lent. The term literally translates to “meat is allowed”. And this is because Carnival is a traditional Catholic celebration.
Following these five days, many believers avoid consuming meat during the 40 days of Lent, mostly on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Usually, Carnival falls in February or March, with this year’s Carnival dates being between the 17th February to 21st February 2023.
Spread over Friday to Tuesday; you can expect various competitions, parades, performances, parties and much more all over the islands.
Carnival in Malta: Main Celebrations
Carnival celebrations can take place all over both islands, Malta and Gozo. However, the heart of these activities is the capital city, Valletta, more specifically in Freedom Square. At the same time, you’ll find celebrations held in other towns and villages, albeit on a smaller scale.
Carnival celebrations in Valletta
The “Parata Dance” usually kicks off the Carnival calendar in Malta. Performed by children, the Parata recounts the events of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, in which Malta defeated the Turks.
The most artistic interpretations of this light-hearted sword dance. A carnival float parade will then follow at St. George’s Square in Valletta.
Carnival Saturday is something most Maltese children look forward to. Children and parents flock to the capital city for what’s known as Children’s Carnival. Between 9:30 am – 11:30 am, you can expect many colourful costumes, shows, and dances in St. George’s Square. Naturally, all of these celebrations make this a highly-anticipated event.
During the rest of the day, the city welcomes the traditional unique floats as they parade in St. George’s Square between 4 pm – 7 pm. These floats are the final work of intense effort put in during the rest of the year.
This is because Carnival enthusiasts go to great lengths to find the best theme and means to portray it. Usually, these floats have a satirical theme based on controversial or entertaining local or international headlines and events.
Events on Saturday then end with a massive party, called the “Ballu Tritoni” party, hosted in Triton Square, featuring various local DJs and artists.
But that’s not it! During the remaining days, you’ll find celebrations in Valletta at any time. These include dance competitions and shows, float parades, or a mix of all.
Finally, the events close on Tuesday evening during the Carnival Gran Finale, with a parade along St. Anne’s Street, Floriana.
Carnival Celebrations in Gozo
Nadur is the central hub for celebrations in Gozo. Here, Carnival takes a wilder and even more grotesque twist.
What makes this event so unique is the fact that it’s completely spontaneous. So, without any organising entity, people can be as inventive and creative as can be with their floats and costumes.
It’s easy to see why Carnival in Nadur is particularly famous, especially among the younger generations. In fact, many spend the weekend on the sister island. Here, most attendees wear comical, often satirical costumes.
There are events and parties all over Gozo, especially during the weekend, making this an annual appointment with Maltese and Gozitan locals.
Other Carnival Celebrations
Despite Valletta and Nadur being the main hubs for festivities, celebrations are happening across the islands.
Two of these localities are Ta’ Qali and Ħamrun.
In Ta’ Qali, there’s an all-day celebration on Saturday at the Crafts Village. The calendar of events includes a street parade, carnival floats, grotesque masks, and various stands by local artisans.
Ħamrun, on the other hand, hosts its Band Parade and Defilé from 10 am onwards on Sunday in St Joseph High Street, Ħamrun. There will be three marching bands, grotesque masks, carnival floats, and the Guggen Music Band.
For more information, we suggest you consult the official Programme for 2023.
It’s worth adding that entrance to most public events are free of charge, while others need an entry ticket. The price of these tickets ranges from €5 to €18.
Carnival in Malta: What to eat
It’s hard to talk about Maltese celebrations without mentioning the local delicacies enjoyed during this period. Carnival is no exception.
You’ll find the “Prinjolata” among the traditional Maltese Carnival food. This white dome-shaped cake consists of almonds, eggs, and nuts. It is then decorated with candied cherries, chocolate, and more nuts.
You’ll spot the prinjolata in many cafes and markets around the Maltese islands. So, look out for it if you’d like to sample one of the local favourites.
“Perlini” is another common sight during this period. These pure almonds coated with sugar in various pastel colours. And, it’s safe to say that one leads to another!
Stay with us at 1926 this Carnival
Exploring Malta during Carnival is undoubtedly fun. But after a long day out, there’s nothing like returning to a comfortable room. After all, you need to rest and gear up for the following day.
1926 is located in the heart of Malta, Sliema. We offer luxurious, modern, yet sustainable accommodation. Our location is also well-connected to many of the best spots in Malta, making getting around the island a breeze.
Book your room now, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or + 365 21333565 for more information.