Maltese Carnival 2016: A Guide

Just as the Maltese start to recover from the Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities, preparations immediately commence on one of the biggest cultural events on the local yearly calendar…Il-Karnival!

Il-Karnival is the Maltese version of carnival which is organised in line with the Roman Catholic calendar i.e. the weekend before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the 40 days of Lent before Easter. In 2016, Ash Wednesday falls on 10 February which is the feast  day of Malta’s Patron saint, St. Paul. Therefore, carnival shall be celebrated in Malta between 5 and 9 February 2016 with the mainly anticipated events being:

The Organised Carnival / Il-Karnival Organizzat

The organised carnival in Valletta, the capital city, which culminates in the crowning of ir-Re tal-Karnival  (the King Carnival) float. Carnival committees spend all year building floats for the event and dance troupes make costumes and prepare choreography in the chance to win best dance routine of the year. There are also other organised carnivals held around the islands but this is the most prestigious one.

carnival-valletta-louis-zammit-cordina carnival-valletta-steryn-digital-vision2

The Spontaneous Carnival / Il-Karnival Spontanju

There are many spontaneous carnivals held around the islands but the one in Nadur, Gozo is the most famous. Maltese and Gozitans, young and old alike, dedicate a lot of time and money on making costumes and amateur floats for this massive street party. There is no running theme but costumes tend to be more dark and twisted than usual carnival celebrations and as a foreigner visiting you can learn a lot about the islands during this event because many revellers tend to use political references or caricatured masks of local politicians. It’s all in good jest and although you may come across pranksters during the night, you will mostly meet happy dancing people and maybe get a freebie or two. I will never forget meeting a friend of mine dressed as Elmo Cookie Monster handing out free cookies and furry hugs! You may even get lucky and meet a group like this one person I know who once dressed up along with his friends as Maltese cannoli and handed out local gourmet cannoli all night long. Speaking of desserts, you can’t miss out on prinjolata which is a typical Maltese Carnival sweet.

If you’re planning a visit to Malta this year make sure to combine all the above events for a memorable cultural experience. Many foreigners love carnival in Malta and Gozo and visit every year. 2016 is set to be one of the most interesting times to visit because besides combining two islands in order to celebrate Il-Karnival one can also attend one of the beautiful religious village feasts in Malta dedicated to San Pawl (St Paul) all in the same week!

The most famous one is organised by the Collegiate Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck in St Paul’s Street, Valletta. The organisation committee members proudly refer to themselves as Pawlini.



Corrigendum: Please note that after posting this article I was advised that due to the clash of the Feast of St. Paul with Ash Wednesday the much-loved Valletta festivities and procession shall actually be held on 30 January. Apologies for any inconvenience caused and please find further information on the following link.


  1. It’s always been my theory that the spontaneous carnival was born as a reaction to the super saccharine organised Karnival, an adult version so to say. There have been attempts at introducing political satire in the organised carnival in these last five years.

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Tamara - Valletta

Born and raised in Malta to a Zambian mother and a Maltese father. I subscribe to Jason Silva's definition of billionaire: "Someone who positively affects the lives of a billion people."

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Continent: Europe
Capital: Valletta
Population: 403,000
Area: 316 km2
Currency: Euro
Languages: Maltese, English

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