Maltese Culture

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Malta reflects the influences of various cultures which have come in touch with the Maltese islands in the course of centuries, including the neighbouring Mediterranean cultures and those nations that ruled Malta before its independence in 1964. The culture of modern Malta is depicted as a motley pattern of beliefs, traditions and practices.

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Malta hosts many international and national folklore festivals held on an annual basis, most of which are supported by the National Folklore Commission.

The Malta International Folk Festival is held each December in Valetta under the patronage of the Ministry of the Arts and Culture.

Similar to the tradition in southern Italy, local festivals are commonplace in Gozo, an island of the Maltese, which frequently celebrate weddings, christenings and saints days, which honour the patron saint of the local parish church by marching through the streets with a statue of the patron.

The religious atmosphere gradually leads to band processions, fireworks, late night parties and several days of revelry.

When a local festa takes place, the main streets around the parish church are richly decorated with banners and sculptures on pedestals. Stalls with traditional Maltese food and the local nougat are also available.

The parish church is illuminated at night with brightly coloured lights. Each weekend in the summer, several festi take place in various towns and villages across Malta. Some fishing villages feature a popular medieval game called Gostra, which entails competitors running on a greased pole which projects into the sea to take a flag.

The Mnjara Folk Festival Day is one of the most significant events on the calendar of Malta, which is devoted to the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

Its roots are traced back to the pagan Roman feast of Luminaria, when the night of June 29 was illuminated by bonfires and torches. Mnjara is a national feast which also includes traditional Maltese food, music and religion, and is one of the few occasions when participants can hear traditional Maltese Ghana (ballad) music.

The Carnival of Malta has also had a significant place in Maltese culture since Grand Master Piero de Ponte introduced the festival in 1535.

Carnival is held the week before Ash Wednesday and usually includes a masquerade ball with grotesque masks and elaborate dress competitions, as well as lavish night parties, a colourful parade, costumed revelers and marching bands.