You need to be in Malta this Christmas, not just for the temperate winter climate, but for the experience of Christmas in Malta itself. Of course, spending Christmas in the Mediterranean is a great way to get over your winter blues, but true Maltese culture also comes alive at Christmas.
Christmas Culture in Malta
Nowadays, Christmas is more about presents and shopping promotions than it is candles and carols. Not so in Malta, where Christmas is celebrated traditionally and is taken seriously as a religious feast.
But that doesn’t mean Christmas in Malta isn’t a joyous occasion. On the contrary, it’s a time of year when a festive atmosphere is shared in by Maltese and tourists alike. Expect carol singing, street processions, and a feeling of cinnamon scented joy across the islands.
Religiously, Christmas spirit reaches a crescendo on Christmas Eve, when churches will be full to bursting with people attending mass.
Afterwards, a procession to the local church takes place, with children or actors dressed up as the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and the Three Wise Men. At the church, the procession turns into a pageant with singing and dancing, followed by a midnight mass.
Maltese Christmas Decorations
Christmas decorations are a massively important part of creating a festive atmosphere. No where is this more true than in Malta, where the Maltese go all out in decorating their homes.
You’ll see beautiful twinkling lights in the streets, and gorgeously decorated Christmas trees, but you’ll also see a form of Christmas decoration that’s more unique to Malta. The “presepju”, or “crib” is an essential part of every household Christmas decoration.
On the smaller end of the scale, these cribs can be made of newspapers moulded to resemble a cave, with plastic figures placed inside to replicate the nativity scene. Other cribs might use traditional materials like balsa wood or natural stone.
But it’s not hard to find more elaborate cribs. Some cribs will make use of mechanical moving parts, flowing rivers, or even real people. The traditional small crib is placed in front of the window on street level, but these larger cribs might take up a whole room and be open to the public.
In one village in Gozo, the nativity scene takes up the space of several fields. Over 150 actors play the parts of craftsmen, shepherds, and of course the Holy Family. This mini-Bethlehem is open most days in the run up to Christmas and is admission free.
Maltese Christmas Food
Food plays a big part in Christmas celebrations the world over, and Malta is no exception. Many Christmas foods in Malta are influenced by the British, so Turkey is often the staple at Maltese Christmas dinners.
But you’ll also find some more unfamiliar treats on the Christmas table in Malta.
Qaghaq tal-ghasel are a wonderful Maltese Christmas treat for those with a sweet tooth. They are essentially sweet pastry rings filled with treacle – simple but delicious.
You’ll also find imbuljuta, or hot chestnut and cocoa soup, which is served as a delightfully Christmassy drink after midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
A Great Time of Year to Visit
Experiencing a Maltese Christmas should be more than enough reason to book a trip to Malta this Christmas, but if it’s not, there are a few other perks to visiting in December.
Due to Malta’s warm weather and beautiful beaches, the Maltese tourist season is in July to September. Winter temperatures in Malta are still very pleasant compared to those of Northern Europe, but fewer tourists tend to visit in December.
This means that you’ll have the run of the place when it comes to sight seeing. Malta’s gorgeous landscape and beautiful architectural treasures don’t pack up their bags with the end of the tourist season. In December, you’ll still be able to enjoy them in all their glory, without the bother of tiresome crowds.
Prices also take a nosedive in December. After the tourist season has ended, you’ll find that hotel and even transport costs will be discounted. This means that you’re money will go a lot further than it would in July.
So, Christmas in Malta is the perfect opportunity to treat yourself to a bit of luxury.
In short, Christmas culture in Malta is well worth experiencing, but in doing so, you’ll also save yourself some cash and get to see beautiful Malta at a less touristy time of year.