Spending Christmas in Malta is popular, especially for those from the north of Europe. Many tourists come to Malta’s shores for the festive season and most hotels are open all year round. The weather can be very pleasant and sunny at this time of year, with temperatures up to 20C, but it can also rain from time to time. Malta is predominantly Catholic, so Christmas is an important religious occasion and Maltese families celebrate wholeheartedly.
One popular activity on the evenings running up to Christmas is to walk around the locality, looking at the cribs (presepju) and decorations.
Many houses display a crib in a window which is lit up, some spectacularly, and some houses also have American-style decorations lit-up outside, with Father Christmas figures climbing over balconies. Villages – and their churches – are festooned with Christmas lights, and the capital, Valletta looks like something out of a fairytale. Valletta has late-night shopping until 9.00pm on each Saturday in the run-up to Christmas, so it’s possible to combine a shopping trip with a look at the Christmas decorations, and follow that with dinner at one of the restaurants.
It’s well worth visiting one of the many churches for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, which includes the recital by an Altar Boy of the traditional Maltese il-Priedka and plenty of carol singing. Another Christmas tradition is the Procession of the Baby Jesus, which includes the village children dressed as biblical figures and is accompanied by the village band. This takes place usually on Christmas morning and was originally started by Maltese St. George Preca, who was canonised in 2006.
The hotels in the 3 main tourist areas (Mellieha, Bugibba/Qawra and Sliema/St. Julians) organise Christmas Eve dinners and Christmas Day lunches, and these are usually buffet-style and prove popular with Maltese too. Buses run every day throughout the Christmas period, but stop for a few hours on Christmas Day afternoon, enabling the drivers to eat lunch with their families. The Gozo Channel Ferry also operates on Christmas Day, with a slightly reduced service.
Shops are closed on Christmas Day, but usually reopen on the 26th, as Boxing Day isn’t a public holiday in Malta. Like the hotels, most bars and restaurants will be open over the festive period as are historical sites, museums and attractions (with the exception of Christmas Day).