Written by Juan Dingli • Photography by Szidonia Lorincz
After our lovely experience in Nadur for the carnival, we came back to Malta just in time to celebrate the carnival in Valletta. Sadly, this year’s celebrations were a case of raining on one’s parade as the saying goes, literally. The inclement weather we experienced during the carnival weekend resulted in most of the Valletta carnival celebrations to be postponed. The streets where quite bare and lacking any action on Friday and even Saturday evening except for a few costumed individuals who decided to brave the wet streets in search for a fun night. The weather also meant that the floats had to be moved to Valletta on Sunday, trying their best to avoid the rain.
While we were still on our way to Valletta, we encountered a massive traffic jam. All of Malta decided to go to Valletta for the carnival seeing that Sunday turned out to be a sunny day. Us being stuck in traffic meant that we would definitely be seeing some activity in Valletta. After some minutes stuck, the ever-nearing music emanating from one of the floats still making its way to Valletta kept us company. It had eventually overtaken us and we then proceeded to park our car in the area. The rest of the way had to be done on foot but this also gave us a chance to observe all the eager families heading to the carnival. Children of all ages dressed as their favourite character were running ahead beckoning their parents to keep up. The carnival celebrations in Valletta are different in the sense that they focus more on the massive floats and group dances. On the other hand, Nadur’s carnival is known to be more spontaneous and chaotic. Both are interesting in their own sense.
Upon arrival in Valletta, the scenario was as we expected. Hundreds of people dressed up in costumes wading through the streets of Valletta showing off their costume. Staying still, we watched groups of teenagers, families and friends walking by and generally having a good time. Some were even armed with snacks and candy from the stalls that where set up all throughout Valletta selling carnival specific candy and other delicacies. This really brought back childhood memories from more than a decade ago when my mum used to take us to Valletta in our costumes. We always looked forward to those carnival days running after the floats without a care in the world. Things have changed but the present day carnival is still something worth visiting. Back to our latest carnival experience in Valletta, we proceeded to head down the main street awaiting more interesting sights.
What we noticed was that the style of costumes here where slightly different than that of Nadur. We saw more detailed and intricate costumes and it seemed that some individuals had really gone all out for this carnival celebration. As I said before, this was less of a chaotic affair than Nadur’s celebrations so obviously it would attract a different crowd and vibe altogether.
The scene was absolutely fun. All the vibrant colours, shiny objects, grotesque masks, the music playing in most streets and a general sensory stimulation felt like being in a dream. After running around the streets of Valletta in complete awe, stopping once in a while for a quick snack or a drink, we ended up next to St George’s square where we waited for the floats to start making their presence felt one by one. The overall size of the floats might have decreased slightly throughout the years but the sophistication was highly visible. The float teams dedicate a lot of time and effort into making these complex floats that move, unfurl and rotate to our amusement. A good motivator is the float competitions. Most strive for the first place position in their eligible categories which would ensure bragging rights and going down in history as winners. Competitions were also held for best costumes and best dance groups all throughout the celebrations. The best thing though is that everyone was having a good time and most were more than happy to just show off their floats, dance moves and costumes.
As the night progressed, the floats parading through St George’s square seemed to be getting bigger by time. The float with the helicopter character was certainly eye catching. Another float which I enjoyed watching was the one where characters kept popping up one by one and eventually a falcon-like bird took the high spot overlooking the whole square. What a show that was. One of my favourite floats had to be that of the Dream Team group. This consisted of massive figures depicting famous singers; Freddy Mercury, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, the Indian from Village People and Tina Turner. The spotlight was given to all of these stars one by one and in the meantime, a dance troupe danced to music from these artists. The highlight had to be the impersonators dressed up as the corresponding star accompanying the dancers, this made for quite a spectacular show that most could easily relate to. It felt like a massive tribute to these legends of music. The other floats were also interesting, we were amazed at how they would transform from a tiny float to a massive one. Slowly unfurling and opening up whilst the bass was pumping and the crowd was jumping. Confetti and balloons filled the sky from time to time, enhancing the whole party atmosphere whilst the floats where being displayed. I always catch myself feeling giddy in moments like these, my inner child was definitely having a good time. I’m glad I was there to witness all of this once again.
We decided to have one final walk around Valletta and we noticed that the streets where still quite populated with revellers and fun loving people. The carnival celebrations in Valletta was quite a good experience despite the previous two days being ruined by the weather. Most agreed with the bulk of the events being postponed to the weekend after during the first weekend of lent and for some this didn’t go down well. I personally believe that it would have been a shame if the carnival float makers didn’t get a good chance to show off their dedication and work to the public. Imagine working all year long on a massive mechanical float and training a synchronized dance troupe only to have the weather raining on their parade. This was what prompted the creation of summer carnivals but these aren’t as sought after as the pre-spring carnival. I hope you enjoyed your experience during this year’s carnival, wherever you where be it Valletta, Nadur or the other villages around Malta who celebrated this colourful event.