Wednesday, March 9, 2011


This past weekend was Carnival in Malta. Think Halloween, five days long, no candy, better costumes, parades, and of course, parties. That's Carnival.

The history of the Maltese Carnival goes something like this: the first carnival was introduced by a Grand Master of the Knights of Malta five hundred years ago. It’s held during the week that leads up to Ash Wednesday (just before Lent begins) and typically includes masked balls, fancy costumes, big parades and late nights. The idea behind Carnival is to indulge in everything before you give up something for lent. Apparently a stone used to be hung from the Palace of Justice in Valletta signaling that justice would be suspended during the festivities. Carnival in Malta was, and still is, a time to let loose. 

Carnival is celebrated in various villages in Malta, but the main parties are in Valletta and its adjacent town Floriana, which are well attended by families. School is cancelled for children during carnival (but not for university students, darn). A “spontaneous” carnival is held in Nadur, Gozo (the sister island to Malta) which is basically carnival for adults. We attended both over the weekend. 

We took a daytrip to Gozo for the second day of Carnival to attend the Nadur spontaneous Carnival with a group of fifty-odd international students from the university. We took the car with us and explored Gozo with the dogs during the day. It was an exciting weekend for both us and the puppies. We had our first lunch with the dogs at a restaurant in Xlendi Bay and we went to Ramla beach where they played nice (aka tolerated) the presence of a pack of stray dogs. 
The spontaneous carnival in Nadur was definitely a spectacle. Everyone was dressed up in exceptionally creative costumes that put North American Halloween get-ups to shame. We saw teletubbies, robots, and controversial costumes like the “printer bomber” (Muslim dress and printer tied to waist) and various forms of cross dressing. Drinks flowed and music pumped, and I don’t know how anyone had the stamina to keep up with the party for five days.

"American" footballers
box of matches
the spontaneous carnival grows around the church

On Sunday we went to Valletta to see one of the many carnival parades and on Tuesday evening we went to Floriana for the grand finale parade. The floats in the parade are impressive feats of engineering. They appear to be made mostly of papier maché and are painted with fluorescent paint. They have light and sound systems built in and all of the floats have moving parts that incorporate hydraulics and genius mechanical systems. As far as local traditions go in Malta, Carnival is a pretty cool one.

The Up float (I somehow doubt they got copyright permission from Disney/Pixar)

Carnival dancers and floats at night in Floriana 

Happy Carnival from Malta, with love.



  1. jessica that picture of you with the confetti in your hair is gorgeous!!


  2. Loved this post and someday I do hope to visit during February!


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