Carnival in Gozo
Carnival Week is undoubtedly one of the most colourful events in the Maltese calendar. Traditionally preceding Christian Lent, Carnival provides five days of revelry with many dressing up in colourful costumes and covering their faces with masks in the many towns and villages. Gozo is no exception and organises its edition of the festivity.
Carnival celebrations are tightly knitted in Maltese folklore. It has been celebrated in Malta since the arrival of the Knights of St. John in 1530, but some studies even date the first carnival revelry back to the year 1470. Up until 1751, carnival was an activity exclusive to Valletta. By tradition, the Maltese have had valid excuses to mark carnival for hundreds of years and the celebrations have come a long way since.
In Gozo, the main activities take place in It-Tokk, the main square in Gozo's capital Victoria. However, a particular event, which takes place in Nadur, defies the official definition of a standardised Carnival activity such as those held in Valletta and Victoria. Nadur is one of the villages of Gozo with a long tradition of spontaneous carnivals. This is because from time to time, it retained an essentially popular character.
In Nadur the purposes of costume is disguise, in other words, simply not to be recognised. Consequently grotesquely disguised crowds overrun the streets; the costumes consisting mainly of haphazard, coarse guises made of sack, sheets, wigs and incongruous make-up. The local participants are often silent for most of the time in order to make sure that they remain unidentified - so much so that is sometimes referred to as the Silent Carnival. The floats lose much of the grandeur, which the Valletta carnival accords them, and are often no more than carts released from their ubiquitous role on the farms and brought to the streets of Nadur.
Within this absurd set-up it is not uncommon to catch sight of placards with ambiguous, snide remarks daubed in paint directed at both private and public personalities, which in order to avoid being regarded as libellous are often veiled reference, very difficult to gauge for first-time visitors.
This article can be viewed on www.gozo.gov.mt