There is a lot to be experienced on Malta during the Christmas season but most of the Christmas experience is done around the home and hearth. In Malta, the home is a focal point of attention at this time of year as families gather and meet up to share meals, open gifts and be together.
A stranger visiting a series of Maltese homes at this time of year will become somewhat confused as to how the Maltese people celebrate Christmas. A variety of holy and pagan rituals tend to clutter homes and all for the right reasons.
One of the key features of Christmas decorating is the crib. The cribs can come as complicated as they make them, or not – from one lone grotto to a complete village and nativity scene with mechanised movement, water streams and flickering lights. Some of the more scenic cribs are especially enticing to observe with their hand-painted clay ‘pasturi’, the handmade terraced village streets and the very well formed backdrop. Different materials are utilised, from papier mache, to recycled cork stoppers to wood….
Collectors seek to own the highly sought-after antique wax Baby Jesus figurines, the oldest of which generally date back to the early19th Century and if still ensconced in their original glass dome, are even rarer to find. These figurines are exquisitely made, dressed up in finery and decorated with hand-sewn or hand-crafted floral detail.
Then comes the Christmas Tree. Well and truly inherited from British colonial years, the Christmas Tree with its glittering balls and tinsel strings usually combines fairy lights in a fantasy of fast-paced choroegraphy which sets the mood for the rest of the household’s Christmas. More tinsel, floating Santas, lanterns and similar gadetry is usually present in most homes, together with other related paraphernalia. The tradition of keeping elegantly wrapped Christmas presents under the tree is happily maintained, even though most homes definitely do not have a fireplace down which Santa can slide down safely. Still Santa would probably feel very much at home in a Maltese Christmas….
This article was written by Marika Azzopardi, a freelance writer and journalist. A frequent contributor to national English language papers and magazines, she writes about a bevy of topics including art, people and life in general. She is also the author of children’s books and short stories, delving into adult fiction from time to time.