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Maltese Christmas Traditions
From The Child’s Sermon on Christmas Eve to FOOD!
Christmas is celebrated around the world by millions of people. It’s a time for love, happiness, festive decorations, Christmas trees and lots of eating and drinking. Malta’s Christmas tends to get a little deeper since it’s very much associated with its original religious roots. This is reflected through Malta’s Christmas religious events and even in the festive decorations.
Christmas in Malta has its own unique customs and celebrations to enjoy the festive season. If you’re celebrating this special time of the year on the island of Malta, make sure you witness all the following Maltese Christmas traditions.
Midnight Mass and The Child’s Sermon on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve is a special time of the year for the Maltese. Most towns and villages plan a children’s procession in which children sing along to Christmas carols and carry Christmas lanterns and the statue of baby Jesus.
The majority of the population has kept the annual midnight mass tradition strong and this normally happens after the procession. The highlight of this mass is The Child’s Sermon, known as Il-Priedka tat-Tifel. A child between the ages of 7 and 11 is chosen every year to recite the Nativity story. This is thought of as a great honour and awards the child 100 points for cuteness!
It is customary for the local priest to offer a few refreshments after the midnight mass. These refreshments include imqaret (traditional Maltese date cakes) and imbuljata tal-Qastan (a warm and spicy Christmas drink made out of cocoa, chestnuts, cloves and citrus zest).
Approximately 5 weeks before Christmas, most households in Malta and Gozo start preparing their vetches, known as gulbiena in Maltese. Vetches are made of seeds of wheat or grain that are placed on damp cotton wool left to germinate in a dark spot in the house. By time, these produce long white stems that are eventually used to decorate cribs and windowsills during the festive season.
Nativity cribs, known as presepji in Maltese, are possibly the reigning Maltese Christmas tradition on the island. The first ever recorded crib in Malta was in 1607 in Rabat. Nowadays, most families have their own crib, if not multiple ones. Towns and villages across the island also recreate live cribs in the village squares.
The most famous crib exhibition is the Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem in Gozo in which around 100 actors take part to set up a live crib. Locals and tourists alike travel to Gozo to witness this beautiful scene.
Traditional Christmas Food for the Festive Period
Food is on top of everyone’s list during the Christmas period. Generally, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are reserved for a family lunch or dinner. Typical food includes turkey and the pudina tal-Milied (Christmas pudding) and qaghaq tal-ghasel (honey rings) for dessert.
If you’re looking for the ideal location for your family lunch or dinner during these festive days, check out our menus at AX The Palace. We’re sure you’ll find something you like!
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