The history of Carnival in Malta


March has kicked off with the vibrancy of Carnival, which has filled the streets of Valletta with show-stopping outfits and floats of every shape, form and colour imaginable.

The word ‘carnival’ originates from the Italian phrase‘Carne vale’, which literally means ‘meat is allowed’, for during Lent, meat consumption was prohibited by the Roman Catholic church and carnival was a way of celebrating ahead of the austerity.

Historically in Malta, Carnival can be traced back to the early 1400s, where we find the Università issuing directives about the selling price of meat during carnival.

Encouraged by the Grand Masters of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (1530-1798), Carnival declined in the 19th century, although it managed to survive the period of British rule (1800-1964) and has thus been handed down in an almost unbroken tradition of about six centuries.

Today, many traditions remain true to their roots – defined by loud, colourful parties in Nadur (in Malta’s sister island of Gozo) and colourful parades and floats through the streets of Valletta.