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What gives Malta’s Carnival celebrations their own unique flavour?

Carnival Float

A part of the annual calendar of celebrations since the 15th Century, Carnival in Malta and Gozo is hugely important to all those directly involved.  It is highly anticipated by its many fans and has evolved beyond its religious significance of a celebration of decadence on the run up to the austerity of Lent.

Like its counterparts in Rio and Venice, the Maltese Carnival has its own distinct character. While the Venice Carnival has a more regal, sophisticated air about it, and Rio’s celebrations are punctuated by glitz, feathers and scantily clad women, Carnival on the Maltese Islands is punctuated by satire, loud colours, and grotesque elements. Carnival floats created annually for the celebrations, often depict scenes that are a commentary on modern society or poke fun at public figures and can include elements of political satire.  Arts Council Malta have confirmed that this year’s activities will include the recently revived qarċilla – a carnival farce dating back to at least 1760 – which is led by a notary together with a bride and groom, their parents and witnesses. The qarċilla makes fun of contemporary society, using humorous suggestive verse.  In this year’s qarċilla written by Immanuel Mifsud, a well-known Maltese author who has just won the National Book Prize with his novel Jutta Heim, the notary will proclaim the marriage between two men.

Carnival - Michael Jackosn Float

Central to the public celebrations are the parades in Valletta, Victoria Gozo and the Nadur Carnival also in Gozo. However, this year, Carnival activities in Malta will not be limited to Valletta but will also be organised in other towns and villages.  The stars of these public celebrations are the colourful floats and costumes that bring the streets to life. A result of a full years’ work, the floats are built by skilled craftsmen who have a true passion for the traditions of Carnival.  A combination of wooden frames, mechanical elements and papier Mache these massive structures are paraded through the streets amid fanfare, applause and groups of dancers. The elaborate, colourful costumes worn by the dancers are also made by talented seamstresses, for which Malta has a very strong reputation.

Carnival - Dancers

For many younger people, the Grotesque Carnival of Nadur, in Gozo, is the climax of this annual celebration. The Nadur Carnival traditionally has a darker, racier side. What is essentially a huge street party through the streets of this hilltop village on Malta’s sister island, often depicts themes that might be considered taboo in the mainstream. Such themes include cross-dressing, political figures and costumes of a more thoughtfully provocative nature.  The massive exodus from Malta to Gozo over the carnival weekend highlights this as one of the 3 or 4 weekends in the year that sees business boom for the bars, restaurants, shops and accommodation providers on the island.

Nadur Carnival 2 - Photo Credit: Peter Vanicsek

Nadur Carnival w - Photo Credit Peter Vanicsek

For young and old alike, Carnival in Malta is a spectacle not to be missed.

You can view the calendar of events here or visit Arts Council Malta for further information.
Calendar of Events

Thursday 4th February, 18:00
Opening Ceremony of Malta Carnival 2016 activities at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, Valletta.

Friday 5th February, 17:30
Costume Parade along Republic Street, Valletta followed by Dancing Competitons in St George’s Square and carnival défilé consisting of the King Carnival float, Valletta 18 float, satiric floats and Section A Companies in Costumes on Floats.

Saturday 6th February, 9:30
Children’s Carnival at St. George’s Square, Valletta.

Saturday 6th February, 17:30
Dancing Competition together with the Grand Défilé  performance at St George’s Square, Valletta.

Various activities will be held in Valletta throughout the day including the Qarċilla representation in St John’s Square, Valletta.

Sunday 7th February, 10:00
Carnival Band Parade in High Street, Ħamrun.

Sunday 7th February, 13:00
Carnival Floats Parade at Castille Place, Valletta.  Parade will proceed along Merchants Street to St. George’s Square and then along Republic Street.

Sunday 7th February, 15:00
Special Sunday afternoon Carnival Grand Show at St. George’s Square, Valletta.

Monday 8th February, 10:00
Dancing Schools Carnival Parade followed by a Dancing Show at St George’s Square, Valletta.

Monday 8th February, 16:00
Dancing Competion Programme followed by the Grand Défilé at St George’s Square, Valletta.

Tuesday 9th February, 10:00
Dancing Schools Carnival Parade followed by a Dancing Show at  Pjazza Teatru Rjal, Valletta.

Tuesday  9th Februay, 18.00
Grand Finale in St Anne’s Street with the participation of Carnival Bands, floats and general merriment.

 

 

 


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