MALTA

Christmas is very important to the people of Malta and its sister Island of Gozo. Most people on Malta are Catholics and go to a Midnight Mass Service. Usually the churches are full with people. In Maltese Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Il-Milied it-Tajjeb’.
The Churches are decorated with lights and nativity cribs, ‘Presepju’, built by the church go-ers. The cribs are decorated with figurines, called ‘pasturi’ (representing figures like the shepherds and angels). Today some of the cribs are mechanical and the figures in them move! The figure of the baby Jesus is put on the main altar at midnight on Christmas night. At Epiphany it is traditional to put the three figures of the Magi (Wise Men) in the crib. There is a group on Malta called ‘Friends of the Crib’ who help to keep the Maltese crib tradition alive.

A popular Maltese carol is ‘ninni la tibkix izjed’. It means ‘sleep and cry no more’ and was written by the Jesuit Priest, Fr. Andrew Schembri (1774-1862) from Luqa for Maltese migrants in Tunis. There is a village on Malta called ‘Siggiewi’ dedicated to St. Nicholas, who is also known as San Niklaw, of Bari in Italy and its feast is celebrated on the last Sunday of June.

Children on Malta get their presents from Santa Claus on Christmas night. Sometimes, Father Christmas comes knocking at doors early on Christmas night delivering presents!

Schools in Malta often hold a Christmas concert. Most of the children take part. It consists of Christmas Carols, plays with a Christmas theme, mimes and poetry recitals, etc. It is enjoyed by the children and teachers alike. Christmas parties are also often held in each class. Sometimes the children bring food which their parents prepare at home and it is shared with everyone in their class. Gifts are exchanged and sometimes money is collected which is given to charity.

A concert and Christmas party is held every year at the Residential Home for the Disabled in Siggiewi. The residents take part in Christmas plays and carol singing helped by the people who work in the Home including Nuns. The Home is decorated and the atmosphere is great. The chapel is decorated with a beautiful crib with Baby Jesus. On Christmas Eve, a procession with the Baby Jesus is held and then Midnight Mass. Relatives of the residents also participate in the Christmas celebrations. Special food is prepared and the atmosphere is very happy!

Voluntary organizations also organize Carol Singing evenings in old people’s homes and hospitals, helping to cheer up the elderly and sick with the spirit of Christmas.

Maltese people have a wide range of food at Christmas. Traditionally, the Maltese house-wife kept the fattest capon/rooster, ‘hasi’, especially for Christmas Lunch, which was roasted at the local bakery in a casserole full of potatoes and vegetables. The traditional desert served at Christmas was the Treacle Ring, ‘Qaghqa tal-Ghasel’, and to finish it off, a hot Chestnut and Cocoa Soup, ‘Imbuljuta tal-Qastan’, which was and is served as a cozy night cap during the cold December days in Malta.

Today the traditional Maltese menu has made way for Christmas Turkey, Christmas Cakes, Christmas Puddings and Mince Pies, all inherited during 164 years of British rule (1800 – 1964) in Malta. Italian Panetone has also become a Christmas favorite.

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