Dance the Day Away at the Annual Traditional Maltese Carnival

Dance the Day Away at the Annual Traditional Maltese Carnival

Carnival has been beloved by Maltese families for centuries. It is Malta’s oldest festival that has been going on for five centuries, ever since the Knights of St John occupied Malta. Most of the Western world dress up during Halloween. People on the island dress up in the middle of February. Most people usually associate carnivals with Latin America. Although the Maltese Carnival is not as well-known, it’s still an endearing festivity for all the family to enjoy. The Maltese love to celebrate throughout the year. Many people view Carnival as the start of Spring. It’s time to start welcoming the Summer months. Enjoy the splash of colour and the rhythmic dancing. Carnival is full of excitement and joy you’re bound to love.


It is said the Carnival in Malta originated all the way back from the 1400s. It still retains its medieval allure up to this day. Carnival is a Christian festivity. Traditionally, it is celebrated to make the most of food and drink before the fasting of Lent begins. Back in the 1530s, Carnival was known as the ‘Mad Days’. Nobleman and cavaliers attended lavish balls, whilst the peasants wore whimsical masks and colourful clothing. They took to the streets and got more than a little merry. Eventually, the Grandmaster imposed strict laws as the celebrations got out of hand. The common folk and Knights blamed these restrictions on the Grandmaster Lascaris’ priest. This led to an uproar and the eventual removal of Jesuit churches across the island. In fact, the Maltese expression ‘wicc laskri’ derives from Lascaris’ long face.

As Carnival became increasingly popular again, a rivalry began between Valletta and Floriana. It was the rivalry that brought together many of the traditions we know today. The two neighbours competed to bring us the most extravagant Carnival. This prompted colossal floats and impressive dance. These remain the heart of Carnival up until this day. Carnival remains loyal to its roots as very little has changed – except that it is more civilised today. The rivalry between the two neighbours no longer exists as people work together to bring us a Carnival full of joy.
Today, Carnival celebrations are not so frivolous. Everyone comes together to enjoy the dancing and festivities. A Carnival Committee was set up after the First World War which paved the Carnival we know today. One tradition that has kept going strong for all these centuries is the satiric wedding. Satire embodies the whole ethos of Carnival. The Qarcilla (as it’s traditionally known in Maltese) mocks society, culture and politics as a whole. This may not be the most family-friendly show. Carnival is a time where people can let their hair loose. You can say that Carnival is artistic comedy. It certainly hasn’t lost its allure over the years.


One of the main attractions of Carnival is dressing up! You can choose to be whoever or whatever you want. You’ll see people dressed up a big mix of different things! Animals, clowns, musicians, mythical creatures and the list goes on and on. One of the best things about Carnival is seeing everyone’s original creations. If you want to join in on all the fun, there are plenty of costume shops dotted around the island. If you’re stuck for ideas, you can easily get some inspiration by watching some YouTube videos. Grab all your friends together and come up with a group costume idea. There’s no need to feel like you’ll look silly because everyone will be dressed up just the same! Carnival is just not as fun if you don’t join in with everyone else. Don’t be afraid!

Colourful Floats Parade

The giant floats are something out of this world. These floats are essentially enormous puppets that parade across the capital city. They depict a wealth of characters, including famous people, mythical creatures and animals. Each tells its own story. You’re bound to spot some recognisable characters. These floats take months to plan and design. The parade starts in Floriana as it slowly makes its way through the city gates. You’ll find a range of different colourful impersonations. You’ll have to see it to believe it. Enjoy the amusement whilst you treat yourself to some traditional Maltese sweets. Your taste buds will be delighted with the sugar-coated almonds and the prinjolata cake.


As with all Carnivals all over the world, dancing comes as part of the package. You’ll see the dancers dressed up in impressive and extraordinary costumes. Expect a lot of glitter and feathers galore! The dancers add to the atmosphere. Dancers spend hours practising to win the competition. You may just feel like you’re at a DisneyWorld Parade. You can keep the entertainment going by heading to Malta’s clubbing destination, Paceville, once the day turns to night.

Carnival takes place in Valletta between the 21st and 25th of February. A programme of events can be found online. The majority of the events are free to attend, including the Grand Finale. It’s an event not to be missed, especially if you’re new to the island. What’s better than immersing yourself in Maltese culture than attending a festivity that has been occurring for centuries? You’re sure going to enjoy all the fun! If you’re looking for an alternative event it may be worth travelling to Gozo. Nadur is famous for its manifestation of the Carnival. It’s not organised by any Committee. Nadur’s Carnival is essentially a gathering of people wearing fanciful costumes. It’s one big street party! Nadur’s residents don’t take it too seriously and just want to enjoy the fun.
If the Maltese island life sounds attractive, you may be considering moving here. Malta is a great destination if you’re looking for a great festive atmosphere. The island has fun events to offer all year round. If you’re looking to lease a property in Malta, get in touch with one of our letting specialists at QuickLets. They’ll help to find your ideal property, whether it’s in the midst of all the fun or somewhere where you can take a breather.

Yana Walker
Written By

Yana Walker