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Carnival in Malta

By Malta Expert: Victoria, February 2012

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Come and join the Carnival festivities!

Some hate it; others bear it, while others like me simply live every day of the year waiting for those five short days, usually in February, when the silliness, the senseless and the idiotic takes over.

Carnival in Malta is an important event on the religious calendar, and follows the traditional Catholic Carnival celebration, which literally translated means ‘Meat is allowed’. Fasting during this period is still practiced relatively widely by the Maltese, with many avoiding meat and sweets on Wednesdays and Fridays.

If you are in Malta for holiday during these 5 days, the Malta Carnival 2012 is the perfect event for you and the whole family. The festivity normally includes prolific late-night parties, masked balls, grotesque mask and dress competitions, marching bands and a colorful parade of large floats. Building Carnival floats has become a true competition with several groups from around the Maltese islands preparing, designing and constructing intricate and brightly colored floats. Often, high power sound installations are added to these structures to ensure that the float isn’t only the most eye catching one of them all, but also makes their presence known through thumping beats, sometimes with a DJ spinning a set of turntables on the float itself.

The largest of the carnival celebrations mainly take place in and around the capital city Valletta and Floriana, however there are several "spontaneous" carnivals in more remote villages of Malta and Gozo. The most notable celebration is the Nadur Carnival, which has grown in popularity in recent years.  In fact, thousands of Maltese people and visitors each year cross over to Gozo to join in the celebrations. The Nadur Carnival is renowned for its darker (sometimes macabre) and more risque themes. You will often see cross-dressers, ghost costumes and revelers dressed up as clergy folk. The local participants are often silent for most of the time in order to make sure that they remain unidentified - so much so that is sometimes referred to as the Silent Carnival.

As with any celebration in Malta, Carnival is associated with lots of food and drink. So, while you are here make sure you won’t miss the Carnival sweets. These includes the ‘perlini’ which are multi-colored sugar coated almonds and the ‘prinjolata’, which is a towering assembly of sponge cake, biscuits, almonds and citrus fruits, topped with cream and pine nuts.

- Victoria Bezzina

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