Shrove Tuesday – the last chance for you to use up your eggs, empty your jam jars, use up the syrup and pig out before embarking on 40 days of fasting… or, as in the old days, one main meal and two colations! This day is traditionally marked around the world with a knees-up that raises the bar on partying to a new level. In Malta, it sees the last day of a three-day festival on the main island and THE day of a rather alternative five-day festival on the island of Gozo.
In Valetta, you have the somewhat sanitised version that is a blaze of colour. From early morning, people on the streets are dressed in cute costumes. The kids are off school and the bus terminus turns into a staging ground for an array of colourful floats. The perlini (a local delicacy: multicoloured, sugar-coated almonds) are out in full force and available everywhere. Back in the day, these would be tossed from the floats to the crowds. I missed that this year but that’s not to say it didn’t happen! Those who want to go for broke can gorge themselves on prinjolata – a heap of sponge, biscuits, almonds, fruit topped with cream and pine nuts.
Across the water, on Gozo, in the little town of Nadur (pop: 5000), a carnival of a different sort takes place. Depending on who you talk to, you can hear adjectives from grotesque to unusual, from macabre to peculiar. While parts of the five-day celebrations are organised, it’s the Spontaneous Carnival that attracts thousands by its weirdness. It’s not officially organised by anyone apparently, but at sunset, the masses take to the streets, dressed up any which way, masks hiding true identities as they everything they can to get the crowds going. This one sounds just odd enough to be worth a visit and is on my list of things to do in Malta next year!