It feels like, every country and every culture has their own carnival tradition, time and relationship to it. In Brazil, for instance, Carnival is so very important, that they have a week of holidays to celebrate it. And other than most people think it takes a yearlong practice and is celebrated differently in every region. So those bare naked ladies are just to find in some parts of the huge country. Even Carnival in Malta might hold some surprises.
In Cuba the carnivals are even set at different times, depending on the region. The famous Parandas in the village Remedios, for example, takes place around Christmas, the carnival in Matanzas around May, the one in Havana in August, and the famous one of Santiago de Cuba in July.
In other parts of the world the traditions, customs and celebrations differ a lot. What I like about the carnivals in Cuba is, that I don’t have to dress up, but that’s just my personal thing. In some parts of Germany, like Cologne, there is a huge tradition of celebrating carnival. People dress up and have a huge party on the streets of the city.
Traditionally those carnival rituals are supposed to scare away the Winter and finally dive into spring and later in the Christian tradition the last day also marks the beginning of the fasting period.
So talking about all these different traditions: this year I learned about the importance and the way of celebrating in Malta.
The carnival started last Saturday and it started with some bad luck because the weather was just not in celebrating mood. The carnival week has an important place in the Maltese calendar, and there is not mess with.
A Little Bit of History
The Maltese il-Karnival ta’ Malta was introduced to the Maltese islands in 1535, so it goes some years back. As in other places around the world, it is held every year leading to Ash Wednesday. The celebration was introduced by Grand Master Piero de Ponte, it mostly took place in Birgu during the early years. The knights used to hold masquerades and balls, that later drove a little out of hand. But the tradition moved to Valletta and survived scandals, bans, and other bumps. Since 1926 it is regulated by the Carnival Committee and mainly held in Valletta and Floriana.
Small Island big Carnival
Even though the main celebrations take place in Valletta and the connected city Floriana, there are many different carnivals over the Maltese islands. Especially the one in Nadur in Gozo is worth mentioning. It features people dressing up in creative themes and preparing costumes as a group. It has a notable darker theme to it but is definitely worth seeing.
However, you should be aware of the fact that prices for accommodations in Gozo are going really high up during that time, as many locals and foreigners head over to Gozo to celebrate carnival there.
There are some villages over Malta organizing their own celebrations and dress up spontaneously.
In Valletta, there are different stages of the celebrations, held from Saturday to Wednesday. Very impressive are the big decorated trucks driving around the streets of the capital and each group is preparing a dance in order to present their float. All of them start glowing when it gets dark and in my opinion, they have a really trippy atmosphere to them.
Celebrations involve a big party and during the day you can see many people dressed up and enjoying the floats and other carnival activities.
Don’t forget the sweets
Oh yeah, of course, a big point of the celebrations is food. There are some special dishes you can just find during carnival season.
The Carnival candy is an important factor of the tradition, there are the Perlini for example. They are sugar coated, colored almonds. But the star of the Maltese Carnival treats is the Prinjolata.
It is a mix of cookies, cream and a lot of sugar. A lot! There are different forms, one is more like a sponge cake and the other one is a pile of biscuits, vanilla, sugar, whipped cream and candied fruit. The Carnival spacial is delicious though, but I do not recommend trying it when you have heart problems.
It is the perfect dish to kick off fasting season. It looks gorgeous though and feels very decadent, that was the whole point of it by the way. The Prinjolata has a long tradition and is just available during carnival season.
Overall, the carnival celebrations are very beautiful and colorful and I can definitely recommend having a look at them. Some of the traditional costumes remind of other big celebrations like the Carnival in Venice. They are truly incredible.
Why not check it out next year?