Christmas Celebrations in Malta
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. 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.
As in the rest of the Christian world, Christmas is a highly celebrated event in Malta. Whereas the significance of the religious aspect of the feast has been overshadowed by its commercial aspect in so many places, the central theme of the Nativity still plays a significant role in the islands and Christmas traditions are very much alive and mostly family oriented.
The weather in Malta during Christmas
December in Malta is mild with temperatures ranging between 10 and 22 degrees. Christmas is a good time to be in Malta. The Malta Christmas weather is normally warmer than most of the European mainland and a sunny Malta Christmas week is par for the course in most years. Be aware that there is a slowdown on Christmas and New Year’s Day in particular. If you are planning on eating out it is advisable to book your Christmas lunch or dinner early. If you are without a car and need to travel be aware that public transport normally shuts down on both days between 12pm and 3pm – bus drivers are entitled for their Christmas lunch with their families after all.
Things to do in Malta during Christmas / Christmas events
Commerce inevitably plays a big role in Christmas and is obviously vital to retailers. The main shopping streets, as everywhere else, get the Christmas makeover and in recent years the main shopping drags of Valletta, Sliema and other places have vied to outdo each other in lavish decoration.
There are a number of activities and things to do in Malta at Christmas. The highlight of Christmas festivities is reached on the 24th December when at night (normally around 8 or 9pm) Midnight Mass is celebrated in most churches, an event that is still highly patronised by the locals. 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.
The Mass is characterised by a particular Maltese trait called The Sermon of the Child (Il-Priedka tat-Tifel) - a Christmas sermon delivered by a young boy or girl in the 7 to 10 year old bracket. It is a tradition that has survived from the late nineteenth century.
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 breakfasts have also become common and are organised at many hotels.
A Malta Christmas holidays 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.
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 elaborate 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.
Others are more creative and use a variety of materials like balsa wood or even small rocks picked off garigue terrain for the purpose. The Nativity Crib tradition owes its origins to Saint Francis of Assisi who lived in the 12th century but entered Malta only much later, at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
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.
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 dinner table and plum pudding is also served with most Christmas meals.
In recent years the village of Ghajnsielem in Gozo has started a curious tradition. In 2008 some abandoned fields close to the village centre were converted into a Nativity village. The initiative proved so successful that it has been repeated annually ever since. Over 150 actors take part in this live animation of a mini Bethlehem, complete with craftsmen going about their work, farmers and shepherds, and of course the Holy Family as centre of attention. This quaint (and free) attraction is open on most days from the 6th December to the 4th of January.
Places to eat during Christmas
Malta has a huge number of eating options available throughout the year and Malta at Christmas and New Year is no different. Most of the hotels provide a festive meal but if you want to be out of your accommodation there is a wide choice available. Valletta is one of the best places to be during the Christmas period, with so many top restuaurants to choose from you will be spoilt for choice. Whichever resort you choose to stay you will find a suitable spot, however, we would recommend you pre-book in advance particular for families or groups.
Accommodation during Christmas
Accommodation at xmas in Malta can be a great place to be, the Maltese love Christmas and the hotels normally follow suit fully decorated and themed ready for the festive period. If you have booked on half board or all inclsuive the chances are you have a festive meal included on both Christmas and New Year, however, be sure to check whats included in your meal package.
Celebrations take place all over the islands of Malta & Gozo so the resort you choose to stay will provide festive enjoyment no matter where you opt for. Valletta is especially popular although any major resort will be great at this time of the year.
For those who book early there are plenty of Malta Christmas 2019 deals, its best to book early to ensure you get your preferred hotel over this popular period.
Top places to celebrate New Year's Eve in Malta
Whether your looking for lively or relaxing, there are celebrations happening all over the islands of Malta & Gozo to choose from.
A Valletta christmas is always a good thing. You can party in the centre of Valletta, the capital cities St George's Square is home to a live concert including music from Malta's favourite popstars and DJ's. Great music and spectacular fireworks show are sure to see you party all the way into 2020.
If your looking for something a little calmer then the laid back atmosphere at the Valletta Waterfront is the perfect place for you. With restaurants lined up along the waterfront, bring in the new year with some amazing cuisine, wine and champage with amazing views over the Grand Harbour in the background, although pre-booking a table is advisable. Free entertainment including live music and childrens anamiation along with the customary fireworks at midnight.
If you are staying in Gozo on New Year then Victoria is the place to be. Independence Square and St Georges's Square is where all the vibrant entertainment is going to be. This free of charge event is open to everyone with highlights such as appearances from Jonas Blue and beloved loval band The Travellers. The Gozitons are well known for their carnival street parties and New Year is no different, it's certain to be a fun time for all in Victoria, Gozo.
Merry Christmas – or as the Maltese are more likely to tell you “Il-Milied it-Tajjeb”.