header photo: visitgozo.com
Getting a bit fed up with dreary cold, grey winter weather? Here on lovely sunny Gozo we have the perfect antidote – a blast of Carnival colour and fun to cheer you up.
On Gozo, spring arrives early. Our average February temperature is a mild 13°C and in the five days before the Christian Lent period our little island celebrates Carnival in unique style, with fun, food and festivities. So… a winter holiday on Gozo might be just what the doctor ordered.
There are two distinct types of Carnival on Gozo. In the island’s capital, Victoria and around the island the majority of events are held during the daytime and involve traditional, organised festivities providing plenty of family fun. You can expect colourful floats, amazing costumes, dancing, marching bands, parades, live music – and, of course, delicious food!
Then there is the unique and world-famous ‘Spontaneous Carnival in the village of Nadur. Here you must expect the unexpected, as once the sun goes down, the streets become filled with people wearing weird and grotesque masks to disguise their true identities!
Key dates for 2018 Gozo Carnival Season
In 2018, Gozo’s main Carnival events begin on Friday 9 February through to Shrove Tuesday, 13 February.
Sunday 4 Feb: Organised Carnival, Nadur.
Friday 9 Feb: Organised Carnival in Qala, including folk dancing.
Saturday 10 Feb: Organised Carnival in Xaghra, including the traditional kumittiva folk dance which involves young and old dancers weaving red and white ribbons around a basket on a pole.
Sunday 11 Feb: Organised Carnivals in Għajnsielem, Xaghra and Xewkija.
Fri 9 Feb – Tues 13 Feb: Organised Carnival events, Victoria.
Fri 9 Feb – Tues 13 Feb: Spontaneous Carnival in Nadur – every evening.
Experiencing Gozo’s Carnival
So what is Gozo’s Carnival week like? We asked Oliver Saliba, one of the Baron Holiday Homes’ team, to give us a personal insight. Oliver was born and raised on Gozo and has grown up experiencing both types of Carnival.
What’s your first memory of attending Carnival?
“Being from Victoria, my parents used to take me to the Victoria Carnival which is Gozo’s official regional Carnival. The big floats always amazed and intrigued me. The floats are made by voluntary groups in Gozo, simply for the love of tradition and to compete against rival float makers (quite like the Victoria festas and operas). So every group tries to outdo the other resulting in amazing floats, all with unique movements. Nowadays the number of floats at the Victoria Carnival has decreased but I feel that the quality has increased significantly.
Victoria Carnival float – Photo: Charles Spiteri via Timesofmalta.com
Victoria’s Carnival is more family oriented and I wasn’t really allowed to go to Nadur’s Spontaneous Carnival before I turned 16.
When I was a child my mum used to sew me a different costume every year. I was once a Power Ranger, Zorro, and even a tortoise! As I grew into my teens, I started buying a scary mask every Carnival. We used to gather in groups in Victoria’s old streets and try to scare people passing by. However, nowadays Victoria’s Carnival has become more organized and family-friendly!
As I grew older, Nadur’s Carnival became more attractive and I was amazed the first time I attended. In the 2000s the Spontaneous Carnival was less popular with tourists (both local and foreign). But since around 2012, its popularity has exploded and now Nadur’s streets are packed with people especially on Friday and Saturday. I’m talking about thousands of people all masked, or dressed in costumes, enjoying Carnival in Nadur’s main square and December 13th Street.”
Do you have a favourite? And why?
“I like Victoria’s Carnival on Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. A lot of people attend and both are very family/child-friendly. I prefer Nadur’s Spontaneous Carnival on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night. There’s fewer people (as people coming from Malta tend to leave Gozo on Sunday morning), which means more room, and this is when locals really go the extra mile in their costumes and masks. On such days, Carnival in Nadur is how it used to be before it became so popular.”
Presumably the experience is different if you’re a child, a young person, a family, or a group of friends. Which aspects of Carnival do you think suit these different groups?
“Victoria’s Carnival is ideal for children and families as there are people dancing in costumes, floats, funny masks and hilarious sketches. There’s so much to see and hear.
For young people and a group of friends, Nadur’s Spontaneous Carnival can be really fun. They can also have a good time at one of the themed Carnival parties organized by discos and clubs around the island.
Club Parties have become really popular and you’ll find young people (and those young at heart!) gather in Gozo’s main discos on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to attend a themed party where you have to wear a costume. For example, this year one of the parties revolves around the Wild West theme – but this sold out in two hours!”
A Carnival themed party organised at one of the local discoteques. Photo: Sound Salon
Are there any special foods at Carnival time?
“Whether you go to Nadur or Victoria, there will be fast food stands and plenty of
stalls where you can buy food and drinks. Perlini*and Prinjolata** are the traditional
sweets linked with carnival.”
[*Perlini are pastel-coloured, sugar-coated almonds. Traditionally, perlini used to be thrown from the carnival floats and everyone would try to catch them.]
[**Prinjolata is a rich, dome-shaped, sponge cake made from almonds, biscuits, citrus fruits and topped with cream. It is usually decorated with pine nuts, melted chocolate and cherries.]
What about transport at carnival time? Is it best to drive in or get a bus?
Generally it’s best to use public transport and taxis during Carnival days. Imagine Gozo’s tiny roads when thousands of Maltese visitors cross over from Malta using their private cars – we get a lot of traffic jams.
Oliver’s top tips for Gozo’s Carnival
- “I recommend anyone attending Gozo’s Carnival from Malta to cross over to the island on Wednesday or Thursday before the queuing madness begins on Friday (people may have to wait for about four hours to cross over to Gozo on Friday). I definitely wouldn’t recommend travelling back to Malta before Monday.
- If you are on holiday on Gozo with children at Carnival time I’d recommend you bring costumes for them. They will love dressing up and joining in the fun.
- If you’re attending Carnival with friends – we’d suggest you rent a Baron Holiday Homes’ farmhouse for a few days and prepare and get dressed for carnival there. It’s the perfect way to see your friends getting dressed up in silly costumes and to prepare for the evening’s excitement.”
Organised Carnival in Nadur. Photo: visitgozo.com
For more details on Carnival events, visit VisitGozo.com.
Ask us for help
Baron Holiday Homes is happy to organise car hire, tours of Gozo, and special activities for our guests whatever time of year you visit. Just get in touch and we’ll tell you all you need to know about walks near to your rental property, special events in villages nearby, and other local information.
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