Malta is a very unique destination to visit during the Christmas period. Even though it is microscopic when compared to other major countries across the globe, Malta is known to be a melting pot of culture, diversity, and traditions. It has unique celebrations, customs, and nuances which is pretty unique for such a small country.
Malta celebrates throughout the festive season with its varied traditions, customs, and practices. Christmas is a holiday largely celebrated in the region because of its historical and religious significance. While Christmas Day is celebrated on the 25th of December, the preparations usually begin before this date.
Let’s learn more about the Christmas traditions in Malta together!
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This is a common theme around Malta and it is far more common than other Christmas traditions. It is the nativity crib that were imported to the country from Italy by the noble people in the region. The history of the nativity crib dates back to 1617 and it was found in a church in Rabat. It was taken care of by the Benedictine sisters in this monastery.
Over the years, the practice has gained traction around the country and you are going to find it more common across the country. The local craftsmen have replaced the nativity crib with features that are more Maltese. Many people make their own nativity cribs using plaster or rough clay.
Each family has a unique crib that will reflect their tastes and preferences. The nativity crib is made up of statuettes of baby Jesus, Joseph, and Mary and you will find others with a donkey, cow, shepherds, and everything closer to the manger during the birth of Jesus Christ. The sculpture is one of the most important things that you will find in Malta. It is often placed in a place that can be visible in the room.
Further reading: Dangerous animals in Malta
Christmas lights in Malta
One of the ways that you will find people getting ready for Christmas is by the number of street lights and decorations. The Maltese people usually take Christmas very seriously. The people will begin their Christmas celebrations early by decorating the streets and putting Christmas trees and lights around the area. The lights are usually put on and it occurs a month before the Christmas holiday can begin.
It is a longstanding tradition that you will find more prevalent on the island. It is perhaps a major change from the other traditions around Europe. Once the lights have been set up, the Christmas vibe fills the entire island and you are going to see the different people pick up the Christmas spirit as the region becomes warm and has a bright atmosphere.
Midnight Mass and Il-Priedka Tat-Tifel
The midnight mass is a common Christmas tradition in Malta with lots of people participating in it. Once the people have had their Christmas Eve dinner, they will always go to the local parish or church where they carry out the services. The services are usually shorter during this period and they last from 10 pm until midnight.
Once it is midnight, the people will wish each other a merry Christmas and go home. You will find that many people in Malta will often enjoy their dinner before going to church. In some places they will go to the mass before they can come and eat their dinner.
The midnight mass has been a tradition on the island since the late 17th century and it continues to be popular around the country. In Malta, you will find that instead of a priest, a young kid, about 10 years old, will often give the mass.
In a majority of the people in the country, you will find that four children stand in a circle as they sing Christmas carols and recite poems. They usually hold lanterns and a figurine of baby Jesus. In some parts of Malta, you will find that they set nativity scenes.
The local churches will usually perform the nativity scenes and they include a complete feature that has shepherds, Joseph, Mary, a baby doll of Jesus, a manger, cows, and a donkey among other features.
There is a popular Maltese carol sung when they are setting up the nativity scene as well.
In late November and early December, Gozo and Malta produce gulbiena or vetches, which is a type of wheat, canary seeds, or grain used for decorations. You will see these white hairy in all kinds of places around the country. You can find them on altars, besides the statue of baby Jesus and the cradles.
During the Christmas period, the seeds are sown and they are often done in cotton wool and it will take about five weeks in the dark. Once the seeds germinate, they are maintained until the white stems emerge. These seeds are usually watered each day as they continue to grow. On Christmas Eve, they are ready for adulation. As part of the Maltese tradition, the locals will wrap the cribs with the noodle-like plants in the region.
The tradition has been maintained over the years. Christmas decorations are usually common in the region and local farmers plant the gulbiena to overcome the short supply of the Christmas decorations. The tradition is old, and it is not known where it originated.
The tradition of Maltese Christmas has undergone different tremendous changes and you will find a wide array of customs and traditions that still resemble the ancient past as well as westernized traditions.
Further reading: Christmas in Cyprus
Heirloom for baby Jesus
This is a Christmas tradition that you are going to find more common in Malta as people have an heirloom that has been passed from one generation to another. This is often used in decorating the baby manger. It is an antique that has been maintained over the years and it is considered one of the most important items during the Maltese Christmas celebrations.
Baby Jesus usually rests in a wooden manger and instead of the hay, people will use the heirloom to place the baby that is decorated with fair candles, lights, and gulbiena.
Traditional Christmas food in Malta
Perhaps one of the most fundamental things when it comes to Christmas in Malta is food. Traditional Maltese food plays a critical role during the Christmas celebrations.
The dinner table is often filled with all kinds of dishes. The common traditional dishes include Christmas cake and Christmas log. During the colonial period, the British people brought this culture to the island, and it is made up of raisins, sultanas, cherries, dates, and currants.
Christmas log or buche de noel is a common thing that you are going to find in Malta. The buche de noel was invented in France and over the years, it has become a major staple in different places in western Europe and central Europe as well.
Some of the common treats that you are going to find in Malta include treacle rings, which are pastry rings made with a treacle filling. It is usually consumed with a traditional Maltese beverage made up of chocolate, and hot chestnut.
Perhaps one of the most popular dishes in the country is the rabbit. The people in the country believe in the tradition of making unique dishes and the rabbit is one of the dishes that is prepared during the Christmas period.
The Maltese are known to bake minced pies during the Christmas period. These are small, yet very sweet pies made from a combination of dried fruits and spices. One of the common ways of consuming this is by eating it with chocolate.
You will find that the Maltese people consume mulled wine during the Christmas period.
Further reading: Christmas in Greece
Children procession in Malta
There is a common tradition in Malta and one of the most common activities that you will find young children around the state doing is joining a procession on Christmas Eve. The local children will follow the statue of baby Jesus that is carried at shoulder height after the midnight mass.
This tradition has lingered over the years and you will find that it is more common in distinct parts of the state. The children will carry lamps and they will recite poems, and sing songs. Some will also dress in nativity scene costumes.
Christmas day lunch
One of the common traditions around Malta during the Christmas period is the Christmas day lunch shared between friends and family. Maltese families express their love via food and you will find all kinds of dishes served during the Christmas period. The volume of food during this period is enough for everyone, and even some.
The number of people at the lunch table is usually enormous, as you can find about thirty people at one table. The Maltese enjoy their meals while talking and laughing in the true Christmas spirit. Christmas is celebrated in schools and other organizations where children visit as well.