THE ARTS & CULTURE OF GOZO


Village festas, operas, Christmas celebrations, carnival, festivals, Holy week; there’s always something going on in Gozo.

Village festas, operas, Christmas celebrations, carnival, festivals, Holy week; there’s always something going on in Gozo.

Time seems to move at a different, slower pace on Gozo. The traditional way of life here revolves around a rich mix of rural, cultural and religious activities. Unusually for a small island, Gozo has a vibrant cultural life, including annual events such as arts, opera and folk festivals, exuberant religious celebrations at Easter and Christmas, and the many village festas held throughout the summer months. Gozo also hosts many arts performances, exhibitions and international events throughout the year.

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Here we provide a selection of the major annual arts and cultural events in Gozo:

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Carnival


Carnival in Gozo Nadur

Carnival in Gozo. Photo: visitgozo.com

Every year in early February Carnival Week comes to Gozo, comprising five days of colour, parades, costumes, and plenty of fun. The main centres for activities are the capital city Victoria (Rabat) and the village of Nadur in the south east of Gozo.

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While the celebrations in Victoria tend to be well organised, with colourful street parades floats, and dancing, the Carnival in Nadur, also known as the Spontaneous Carnival, is totally different. The Nadur carnival offers visitors a truly unique experience. As the sun goes down, you’ll see people in grotesque costumes and masks start to wander around the village streets silently. The name of the game is disguise and over the years, costumes and masks have become more and more bizarre, cryptic and even satirical.

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Holy Week/ Easter


Procession in Xagħra, Gozo

Procession in Xagħra, Gozo

Easter is an important time on the Maltese Islands and is a fascinating time to visit Gozo. You’ll see a mix of sombre expressions of religious faith with processions and special church services, but you’ll also find that by Easter Sunday the mood becomes more festive. Food plays a key role, of course, during Lent and Easter and you’ll find plenty of traditional specialities to sample, including Figolli, Qassatat, and Qagħqa tal-appostli.

 

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Gaulitana, A Festival of Music


Gaulitanus

Gaulitanus Festival of Music

This is a major music festival held on Gozo every year since 2007. The Gaulitana festival is usually held during April and May and features both international and local talent. Concerts are are held in a variety of venues and a variety of styles – choral, opera, sacred, secular, serious, light, chamber and orchestral.

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Victoria International Arts Festival


Victoria International arts festival

Photo: visitgozo.com

The Victoria International Arts Festival comprises five weeks of daily cultural events from early June to early July. Held every year since 1997, the festival attracts more than 600 musicians who create an exciting and diverse programme of classical musical events – and an impressive 33 concerts every evening. Best of all, attendance is free as the festival is sponsored through a Cultural Partnership Agreement with the Government of Malta.

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Village festas


Fireworks at a Gozo village festa. Photo: Daniel Cilia

Fireworks at a village festa. Photo: Daniel Cilia

A summer holiday in Gozo gives you the opportunity to experience some of Gozo’s famous village festas. Weekends from the end of May until mid-September see the villages of Gozo organise events to honour their local patron saints. Combining religious faith and secular rivalry, these festas have grown into amazing spectacles. You’ll find a heady mix of beautifully decorated churches and village streets, marching bands, religious parades, dancing, traditional food, horse and donkey racing, and spectacular firework displays.

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Qala International Folk Festival


Qala folk festival. Photo: visitgozo.com

Qala folk festival. Photo: visitgozo.com

Held in the quaint village of Qala in the south east of Gozo over a long weekend in mid-September each year, this festival comprises a lively mix of folk music, dance, costumes, and food.

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Festival Mediterranea


Mediterranea

Mediterranea Festival

From the end of October to early December Gozo hosts a special cultural and artistic event – the Festival Mediterranea. Lovers of classical and symphonic music and opera can enjoy beautiful music and performances by leading international musicians in wonderful theatres. A major highlight is the performance of two operas in one weekend in Gozo’s two opera houses – Astra Theatre and the Aurora Opera House.

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Christmas in Gozo


Photo: Deal

Għajnsielem piazza decorated for Christmas Photo: Deal

If you’re lucky enough to be on a family holiday in Gozo in December, you’ll get to enjoy a very special Christmas. The capital city of Victoria and village squares across the island are lit up with twinkling lights and decorations, you’ll hear choirs singing beautiful songs, and see traditional processions, and lovely hand-crafted nativity scenes.

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In the fields surrounding Għajnsielem, in the south of Gozo, you’ll find Bethlehem f’ Għajnsielem, where throughout the Christmas period, the nativity story is played out in a unique way – with 150 actors (villagers) and animals living and working as they would have 2,000 years ago. There are shepherds and sheep, villagers going about their daily lives, and a couple tending a new born baby in a grotto.