Christmas in Malta is celebrated in grand style as the Maltese love to decorate their homes with all sorts of decorations and the holiday spirit can be felt all over the islands. December in Malta is mild with temperatures ranging between 10 and 22 degrees. The streets of Valletta and other major shopping areas are adorned with beautiful Christmas lights and many shopping centres play Christmas carols throughout the festive month.
Popular Christmas carols have been translated in Maltese, however Fr. Andrew Schembri (1774-1862) wrote a couple of original Maltese Christmas carols including 'Ninni la tibkix izjed' (Sleep, don't cry anymore), this lullaby for Baby Jesus is one of the most popular carols in Malta.
Houses in Malta are also decorated with typical twinkling lights and Christmas trees and the traditional crib 'Presepju'. Cribs are made of newspapers which are moulded, glued and painted to resemble a cave. Small clay or plastic statues are then placed in the crib. These cribs can vary in size and some don't only include the cave but feature entire village of Bethlehem. The more eleborate ones even include mechanical moving objects like windmills, moving donkeys and lights. Flowing rivers are also common, these cribs are then placed in front of the window on street level. There are also cribs which occupy a whole room and are open to visitors at a small charge or donation. In some Maltese villages you might even come across a live crib which includes real animals and people dressed in costumes. The most renowned being Bethlehem in Ghajnsielem, Gozo - The Nativity Village will be officially inaugurated on Sunday 6th December and will remain open until Sunday 3rd January 2016 when it will close with the Adoration of the Magi. Once again, Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem will be animated on weekends and public holidays.
A statue of Baby Jesus lying in a bed of straw is found in most Maltese homes. Another tradition involves sowing Vetch in small basins with cotton wool, it is watered and kept in a closed dark cupboard. Seeking light, the plant grows extremely long and white with little green tips, in December it is taken out and placed near baby Jesus.
The main Christmas celebration starts on Christmas Eve when late at night a procession is held, leading to the local church, with children dressed up as the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, The Three Wise Men and shepherds. Some processions even include a new born baby instead of a doll to represent baby Jesus.
Once in the church, the procession is usually transformed to a pageant with children singing and dancing. After that the typical 'Priedka tat-tifel' (Christmas homily given a child) is held. The sermon is usually a few thoughts for the Christmas period seen from a child's sincere point of view and usually brings smiles on all the listeners. This is then followed by the Christmas midnight mass. After mass, some go back home to open their presents. Lately, Christmas Early Breakfasts have also become common and are organised at many hotels.
Christmas Day is celebrated with the family. Christmas lunch in Malta consists mainly of turkey, a typical Maltese Christmas sweet is the qaghaqa tal-ghasel 'honey ring'. British traditions have influenced the Maltese Christmas, it is very common to see Christmas Crackers on the Christmas Dinner tables and plum pudding is also served with most Christmas meals.
A Christmas highlight, which is popular for children and adults alike, is the annual pantomime held at the Manoel Theatre and at other venues. It's a happy mix of good slapstick humour for children and satire for adults.
Restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs all have their own entertainment, making for an abundant choice of what to do and see.