Saturday, February 13, 2010

"Il-Karnival ta' Malta"

Carnival (Maltese: il-Karnival ta' Malta) has had an important place on the Maltese cultural calendar for just under five centuries, having been introduced to the Islands by Grand Master Piero de Ponte in 1535. It is held during the week leading up to Ash Wednesday, and typically includes masked balls, fancy dress and grotesque mask competitions, lavish late-night parties, a colourful, ticker-tape parade of allegorical floats presided over by King Carnival (Maltese: ir-Re tal-Karnival), marching bands and costumed revellers.
Carnival has been celebrated in Malta since the 15th century, but it received a major boost in 1535, five years after the arrival of the Order of St John. This started taking place officially in Birgu where a number of knights played games and displayed their skills in various pageants and tournaments.

The Parata Dance
True to an age-old tradition, Carnival was ushered in by the Parata which was taken very seriously both by the knights and the people in general as it was of special significance in the history of this festival.

It was customary for some peasants and later companies of young dancers to gather early under the balcony of the Grandmaster's Palace and wait eagerly until they received formal permission from him to told the Carnival. The most recently appointed Knight Grand Cross would obtain the necessary permission and a proclamation giving the go-ahead to Carnival was immediately read from the Palace balcony.

This was the sign for the general merriment to start, and the companies dressed as Christians and Turks performed a mock fight recalling the Great Siege of 1565. Then a girl representing Malta was carried shoulderhigh and taken around the streets of Valletta. Meanwhile a stone would be hung from the Castellania, or Palace of Justice (now the Ministry of Health, in Merchants Street), as a sign that justice was "suspended" for the three days of Carnival.


The largest of the carnival celebrations mainly take place in and around the capital city Valletta and Floriana, however there are several "spontaneous" carnivals in more remote villages of Malta and Gozo. The Nadur Carnival is notable for its darker and more risqué themes including cross-dressing, ghost costumes, political figures and revellers dressed up as scantily clad clergyfolk.
Traditional dances include the parata, which is a lighthearted re-enactment of the 1565 victory of the Knights over the Turks, and an 18th century court dance known as il-Maltija. The parata, in these days is being held by the 1st Hamrun Scout Group.

Food eaten at the carnival includes perlini (multi-coloured, sugar-coated almonds) and the prinjolata, which is a towering assembly of sponge cake, biscuits, almonds and citrus fruits, topped with cream and pine nuts.

hope you all have a good weekend.


Leif Hagen said...

I love to see your photos of Malta! I'm dreaming to go there someday! How about a daily photo instead of a monthly photo - that's my challenge to you. Kind regards from Minnesota

Juniper said...

Great post on Carnival, learned a lot from you, thank you! Hope you enjoyed the weekend.
- j