Merry Christmas i.e. Il-Milied it-Tajjeb!
The day every child waits for all year long has come. It’s Christmas-time!
Malta is strongly religious country, so all the decorations and traditions are followed by every Maltese family. But Malta is full of non-Maltese residents and I think that’s one of the special beauties of this island. There are people living here from different countries, continents with different languages and very interesting habits and traditions. I think it’s pretty nice to face and take a look into a different world who is actually just your neighbor.
Most people in the island are Catholics, which brings us all the Catholic religion’s traditions. In Malta there are more than 300 churches, which are all full on 24th December. On Christmas Eve going for the Midnight Mass is almost inevitable, where a child is doing the preaching of the sermon instead of the priest. This is one Maltese tradition called “the preaching of the child”. A boy or a girl, aged 7-10, tells a story of the birth of Jesus and giving the sermon an extra emotional personal delivery.
Due to religion all the churches are decorated not only with lights but nativity cribs. Cribs all around the island are main feature of Maltese Christmas. Cribs are decorated with figurines of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus together with the animals and the three Kings. Cribs can be seen in public places, but also Maltese houses are often decorated with it. Crib viewing is an important Maltese occupation.
What is really unmissable habit no matter where you are is the eating part of Christmas. Family and/or friends gathering and spending time together, which means eating and drinking all day. The Maltese Christmas menu consists of turkey, pudding, mince pies. The local Christmas dessert is the honey rings and the Italian Panettone is quite common as well. Usually this family event is happening on 25th December, here in Malta that is the only official public holiday. But also this is the day what they celebrate with eating for a whole week in one day. The 26th December is unfortunately not a public holiday here (which is very surprising for me) and it is called Boxing day (more about this next time).
But the good thing about having only one official Christmas holiday in Malta is the advantage of opening hours. In my country lot of shops, bars and restaurants are closed during Christmas time. Well, this can’t happen here. Except 25th December everything is open and you are more than welcome to visit. As I was going to and walking on the streets of Valletta yesterday, I didn’t even realized it’s already Christmas. Every shop opened for the last minute shoppers and every bar full of people for those who were already done with all the preparations or just finished at work.
In conclusion, Malta may not be the country with white Christmas with cold weather and lot of snow, but spending the holidays with pleasant 15- 20 degrees in the sun sounds pretty awesome as well.
Merry Christmas or let me translate: Il-Milied it-Tajjeb to everyone!