Events
Local spring celebrations you won’t want to miss
Introducing the island’s most popular upcoming celebrations – including the feast of St Paul, Carnival and Easter.

Sarah Micallef

After a quiet January, the Maltese Islands come back to life in February and March – one of the busiest periods in the islands’ cultural and religious calendars. Here’s what to look forward to!

The Feast of St Paul

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10th February marks the feast of St Paul - the first religious feast of 2018. Highlighting St Paul’s shipwreck and the birth of Christianity in Malta way back in 60AD, it’s one of the few feasts that’s also a public holiday – though this year falls on a Saturday, much to many a local’s annoyance!

What to look out for:

Normally, the celebrations take place on the actual feast day - 10th February - but this year, since it falls in the middle of carnival, it's been brought forward to 27th January. If you find yourself in Valletta (as one does!), head over to the Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck, where the majority of the celebrations will be based. The church will be decked out in its festa best, and the surrounding streets will turn into one big street party, especially as the statue of St Paul is walked through the capital. 

Carnival

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If you’re on the island between 9th and 13th February this year, get ready to be swept up in a riot of colour – Carnival is one of Malta’s most popular annual events. With carnival traditions dating back hundreds of years, the celebration’s origins lie in the 16th century, when ‘carne vale’ allowed the eating of meat ahead of the Roman Catholic Lenten fast before Easter. It was a time of indulgence and enjoyment, and rumour has it that during this time, higher classes had no authority over lower ones, masters answered to their slaves and men dressed up as women. Shock, horror!

What to look out for: 

In Malta, Valletta and Floriana are the main locations for carnival events. You can expect parties and large floats making their way through the streets, as local families and people of all ages get dressed up in costume. Over on Gozo, organised carnivals in Victoria, Nadur and Xagħra include a variety of carnival dances, hilarious sketches, costumes, floats and the traditional kukkanja, but what the sister isle is more widely known for at this time is the spontaneous carnival held at Nadur. People from all over the island flock for the three days of fun, colours and sounds where everyone can be anyone or anything, through provocative disguise.

Easter

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As a largely Roman Catholic country, Malta celebrates Easter in a big way. This year, Holy Week starts on Sunday 25th March, when the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows is carried in a procession through the streets of Valletta and many other towns and villages. Maundy Thursday comes next – the eve of Good Friday. On this day, devout locals visit seven different churches to pay homage to the Altars of Repose.

What to look out for: 

Good Friday, this year falling on 30th March, is very sombre. Some towns and villages commemorate the Passion of the Christ with a procession of statues, and participants dressed as biblical characters will sometimes drag chains tied to their bare feet as an act of faith or penance – quite a sight to behold, especially if it’s your first time! The mood eventually lifts on Easter Sunday, when everyone is ready to celebrate – complete with the ringing of the church bells and the statue of the Risen Christ’s journey back into the church. This is a day reserved for family, and locals will gather at a relative’s house for a large lunch, because what’s a celebration without lots of food?!


Sarah Micallef
Written by
Sarah Micallef
A keen traveller with an interest in most things, Sarah loves her island home as much as she loves getting away from it, and enjoys discovering and re-discovering the gems, hidden corners and unique stories of her native Malta and Gozo.

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