Carnival's Glorious Comeback in 2022
by Karl Azzopardi
As one of the most anticipated festivals in Malta & Gozo, the absence of Carnival in 2021 was deeply felt by everyone across the nation as Covid-19 snatched away those few days of unapologetic freedom, expression and fun for the first time since WWII. However, with the ease of restrictions earlier this year, came the announcement of multiple Carnival programmes offering a full course of shows and events to nourish our famished spirits.
The Fool Becomes the King
Carnival has been a staple within our islands' culture since the 16th century and while the types of celebrations have changed drastically since then, the central theme of upsetting social rules and standards through rebellion and ridicule remains. It's a time to celebrate the last few days of unrestricted abundance, before going into the 40 days of Lent that follow.
In modern days, this joyous festival is mainly characterised by mountainous, satirical floats parading the streets of Valletta and Floriana accompanied by whimsical dance groups, energetic music and elated screams from the crowds of spectators. Not to mention all the spontaneous Carnivals that take over entire villages across the Maltese Islands.
However, this year things worked out a bit differently – and for the better, some might argue, as this five-day-long festival has been spread over three months!
The King Becomes the Hero
Though Covid-19 restrictions weren't as strict at the start of 2022 as they were throughout 2021, large gatherings were still not allowed which meant that just like the year before, none of the mass celebrations mentioned above could take place. However, Festivals Malta, as our islands' dedicated events committee, wouldn't just let this festive season pass by without, well, festivities.
So, the committee created an alternative programme of week-long activities during the last week of February, that gave the public an opportunity to reconnect with this joyous period while still abiding by health regulations.
Competitive artistic installations were set up all around Valletta, Hamrun and Marsa together with carnivalesque photography and Carnival costume exhibitions. There was also a theatrical performance of il-Qarcilla - a traditional poetic farse that involves a wedding and a whole lot of satire.
Here's an insightful taster of what took place in Valletta just in case you missed it:
In true Carnival fashion, this programme aimed to create a comical depiction of current events where the King of Carnival himself became an epic hero on a quest to eradicate the remains of Covid-19 from our islands…
A Call for Celebration
… and slay the beast he did it seems!
After Festival Malta's programme came to a close, the government kept on easing Covid-19 restrictions more and more until it announced that gatherings will be allowed like pre-Covid times. Needless to say, this news excited eager Carnival enthusiasts who were feeling the deprivation of their usual celebrations. So, as spring went into full bloom, so did preparations for some of our beloved Carnival events all over Malta and Gozo for the month of May.
One such event took place last weekend (13th-14th May) as children dressed as fairies, pirates, cartoon characters and even arcade games and vending machines paraded the streets of Hal Ghaxaq to open the spontaneous 'Karnival Tradizzjonali Ghaxqi' festival.
In the days that followed, the village square erupted with music and dance, with Carnival devotees displaying their skilful craftsmanship with miniature floats or grotesque and thought-provoking costumes, competing for the ultimate title.
Now, don't fret if you missed out on the fun, there is more to come!
This weekend (20th-22nd May) will see the return of the spontaneous Carnival celebration in Nadur, Gozo where every person, creature and clown comes together and turn the square into a freakshow of pure chaos and madness. Just make sure you eat a good breakfast and pack some snacks if you're commuting from Malta because you're in for a minimum of five hours waiting in traffic.
If you're looking for a more family-friendly way to celebrate Carnival, Festivals Malta is bringing back the iconic float parade this weekend as well. It's an event that has been much-awaited by the public as it has by Carnival companies that will finally get to showcase what they've been up to for the past two years. This will surely not be one to miss, and there's a whole programme of activities you can attend!
Carnival is a reminder to not take our lives so seriously, let loose and relish in the joy that life brings. So, find the craziest thing in your wardrobe, put on a colourful wig or mask and let go of all the stress and anxiety from the past couple of years. You made it – celebrate it!
Cover image sourced from Festivals Malta's Facebook page.