Christmas or ‘Il-Milied’ is one of the most popular feasts in the Maltese islands. A lot of its popularity derives from the longstanding Catholic tradition embraced by most.
The Crib or ‘Presepju’ depicting the nativity scene is one of the festive highlights. Churches have their crib but many people like to set up their own and display it behind the house window. Exhibitions featuring different kinds of cribs are also organised. The live Christmas village has also garnered popularity. Life at the time when Jesus was born is re-enacted and people take on the different roles to bring the village to life.
Midnight Mass is also a favourite. This special Mass features ‘the child’s sermon’ or ‘il-priedka tat-tifel’ as it is the child that delivers the sermon not the priest. The child is usually 7-10 years old and is known to start preparing for it from weeks before. Many learn it by heart and are anxious to deliver it well.
Christmas decorations are also widely seen in almost every public place, institutions, as well as private houses. At night, Christmas trees and other lights can be seen behind balcony doors and main windows. Church facades are also lit up as are main streets and shopping areas. Shops do their best to similarly dress up their windows to attract customers. During December, shops open up even on Sundays and public holidays for Christmas shopping.
It has become popular for hotels and catering establishments to organise Christmas breakfasts. People go to these breakfasts after Midnight Mass or after having spent the night out. Many Maltese however still prefer to spend Christmas with their friends and families at home.
The treacle ring or ‘qaghaq tal-ghasel’ as well as the Chestnut and Cocoa Soup or ‘Imbuljuta tal-Qastan’ are typical Maltese Christmas desserts. Yet, one can also find Christmas cakes, Christmas logs, mince pies and Panettone on the Maltese table as our cuisine has been greatly influenced by British and Italian cuisines.
What has almost become a new Christmas tradition is l-Istrina. This is a live televised program broadcast on Boxing Day with the aim of collecting funds for the Malta Community Chest Fund. Chaired by the President of Malta, this charitable institution aims to offer support to various philanthropic organisations. During this program, people can donate money showing the true Christmas spirit and giving millions to those in need.