Whether you’re spending it with family or hitting the clubs with friends, here’s how to ring in the New Year in Malta
Recently, New Year’s Eve in Malta has become synonymous with thrilling fireworks and bustling street parties which, unlike in many countries, are still free of charge. However, these massively popular events are actually new developments in the country’s history, having only been established within the last few years. Before, celebrating the New Year in Malta was a more casual affair, spent with family and often closely linked with food. That’s not to say that food and family doesn’t still play an important role – it most certainly does, with restaurants often packed out with generations of Maltese relations. It’s just that now there’s even more options for seeing in the New Year with a bang. Whether you plan to indulge in classic New Year’s Eve staples like Imbuljuta tal-Qastan, catch the Valletta fireworks or fancy staying closer to home with a range of delicious dinners and hip happenings at Corinthia Hotel St George’s Bay, here’s how to ring in 2016, Maltese style.
Let’s face it, you’re probably going to need a decent meal to set you up for celebrating New Year in Malta. Luckily, Maltese Christmas and New Year’s Eve dishes – with their convergence of North African, Sicilian and British influences – tends towards the hearty. Expect staples like brodu tat-tiġieġa (chicken broth), imqarrun il-forn (baked macaroni) and tiġieġa bil-patata il-forn (roast chicken and potatoes. For dessert, how about a traditional festive honey ring – known as a qagħaq tal-għasel – and, of course, a cup of strong coffee. Now you’re set.
Considering that the history of pyrotechnics displays in Malta stretches back to the time of the Order of the Knights of St John, it’s difficult to believe that Valletta’s popular New Year’s Eve display was only launched in 2010. It’s since become the focal point of the national end of year celebrations, drawing huge crowds at key spots across the city. St George’s Square and the Valletta Waterfront are popular gathering points, and great places to take the temperature of the famed Maltese party spirit, as locals, expats and tourists come together for the countdown. There’s a free concert, too – last year jazz and brass bands met fusion DJs for a piece of truly inclusive scene setting.
The fortified town of Floriana, just outside Valletta, has been holding its New Year celebrations since 2010. Then, it proved so popular that it brought the town to a standstill, and in subsequent years the NYE blow out has become a much-anticipated part of New Year’s Eve in Malta. You can understand why – the town closes off St Anne’s, one of Malta’s busiest streets, for what is essentially one massive, buzzing street party. Our tip? Head down early and soak up the atmosphere, then move to the largest square in Malta, the Granaries, for the concert.
Another traditional festive staple is the Imbuljuta, a warming concoction that’s traditionally enjoyed on New Year’s Eve in Malta. The drink – you can think of it as essentially a luxe hot chocolate – is made from dried chestnuts, cocoa, tangerine rind, cloves and sugar and tastes like the last dregs of Christmas, which it kind of is. It’s also just the thing to fortify you for the evening ahead, as the usually mild daytime temperatures take a turn for the chill.
The fireworks are spent, the street parties are winding down, and people are filing home to sleep off their hangovers. Now’s the time for the truly dedicated to step up – this is New Year’s Eve after all. If you want to dance your way into 2016, the best place to go is St Julians, where the island’s nightclubs are generally concentrated. It’s generally agreed that the stamina-rich club hop their way through Paceville, St Julian’s dedicated clubbing and bar district, although on New Year’s Eve this might prove a little difficult. Many of the NYE events are ticketed and prone to selling out in advance, so be sure to do your research first.
Unfortunately, many Maltese traditions have been eroded by time. It was once customary to give gifts of money to small children on the first day of New Year in Malta. This was called I-Istrina, and was largely lost when the British influence popularized giving presents on Christmas Day. Likewise, superstitious people would often spread white lime on their thresholds to symbolise purity and a new beginning. However, nowadays you might get a few askance looks since this superstition generally died out in the 1930s.