What's On this Festive Season in Malta
🎄 A non-traditional winter wonderland – The festive season on the Maltese Islands
If snow is not on your agenda this Christmas, Malta would be your perfect destination during the Festive period. Having one of the best climates globally, Malta has quite a short and usually mild Winter season. The Festive season is celebrated in our own way, influencing ourselves from foreign traditions and adding a Maltese twist to them. Although it might not seem like your picturesque winter wonderland, the Maltese islands offer a lot of festive activities during this period varying from religious activities to other contemporary ones providing something for all the family to enjoy.
🌟 The Midnight Mass, the Boy’s Sermon, and the procession with Baby Jesus
The Midnight Mass, taking its name from its original starting time in 1883, is a traditional mass celebrating the birth of Christ. This mass starts on the 24th of December and finishes onto the early hours of Christmas Day. This tradition occurs mostly at all churches found around the island but the masses at Valletta and Mdina are quite sought for due to the activity occurring in these cities.
The Boy’s Sermon (known locally as Il-Priedka tat-tifel) is another old tradition that is synonymous with this festive period and normally occurs during the midnight mass. Traditionally a young boy delivers the nativity story to the mass attendees in a very captivating manner. George Sapiano was the first child to give out this sermon at the parish church of Luqa in 1883. This sermon altered itself along the years as nowadays this sermon can be delivered by all children and in certain churches children are grouped or paired to deliver this sermon.
The procession with a statue of Baby Jesus in his manger is also another religious event occurring on Christmas Eve in most parts of Malta and Gozo. Started by St. George Preca in 1921, the demonstration of Baby Jesus as Preca preferred to call this activity, was a small procession where teenagers and young children carry the figure across their respective villages while carolling Christmas Hymns, generally in Maltese and spreading the Christmas cheer. These processions are still quite popular especially in villages across the island.
🎄 Live Cribs
Traditional Cribs are a popular tradition on the Maltese islands. These nativity scenes are filled with figurines, locally called ‘Pasturi’ which are hand-made by Maltese craftsmen that bring this scene to life. Apart from the traditional cribs, Live Cribs are another form of how nativity scenes are set to life during the Christmas period.
🌟 Betlehem F’Għajnsielem found on our sister island in Gozo is one of the largest live cribs on the island. This event consists of 20,000 square meters of land, mostly made up of fields. This area, known by the locals as ‘Tal-Passi’, hosts this attraction occurring yearly where its attendees are taken back to witnessing the life, craftwork, and traditions from the epoch when Jesus Christ was born. This attraction has added to it local aspects by showcasing Maltese traditional craftwork and live baking of Maltese bread by local artisan bakers. This event uses around 150 actors which along with the amazing views and the highly entertaining programme, one should make find some time to attend. Other smaller live cribs are also set up across the islands, with some popular ones being set up in Ħal Lija in Malta, Nadur in Gozo and in Valletta near the Saint John’s Co-Cathedral.
🎄 Valletta Fairyland Christmas Village (8th December 2022 – 6th January 2023)
There is no other place to get you into the Christmas spirit than Valletta. From Festive streetlights to the biggest Christmas village on the island, the capital city transforms itself into a little winter wonderland. City gate at Valletta transforms into Santa’s City, with a lot of themed attractions during this Festive period. This event will give an amazing experience both to young ones and those who consider themselves young at heart!
Rudolph’s wheel, a Ferris wheel set up for the occasion provides a bird’s eye view of the capital city and other cities nearby. For those who seek an adrenaline rush, the ice rink is the place to visit, welcoming both those who want to show off their skills and those who decide to give ice skating a try. Santa will also be present in his residence at Fairyland meeting children from all over the world as he compiles his naughty and nice list. A selection of Festive food both traditional and international along with a glass of mulled wine and hot drinks are also available to accommodate everyone in Santa’s various cabins spread across the square in front of city gate.
Once you visit Valletta, you cannot go by without viewing the Festive lightings that are set up across the city for this Festive period. From the Christmas tree in Freedom Square and other exhibits in Republic and Merchants’ Street, watch the Capital City fill with warm and Festive colour, that for sure raises the Festive spirit of everyone who visits.
Further information can be accessed on https://fairylandmalta.com/
🌟 Malta International Choir Festival (2nd December 2022 – 4th December 2022)
The Malta International Choir Festival is set onto its 4th edition, spreading its Christmas cheer on our island. Different choral groups from all over the world are set to exhibit their skills and bring over various cultural influences and music pieces, for all those who attend. Mdina found on the central part of the island, will host groups coming from England, Italy, France, Lithuania, and Wales amongst others. This event will be spread across 4 days showcasing various themes and styles of music daily, making this festival an unmissable event.
Finding its root in the British era in 1904, the pantomime quickly evolved into a local tradition. Being carried out both in Maltese and in English, a trip to a pantomime will surely be an unforgettable one. The local take on this arts genre is something quite different than its original counterpart portrayed abroad, especially in England. Firstly, Malta is the only country to stage the panto in another language rather than English. The dame and popular songs parodied with re-written lyrics are some of the core elements that remained constantly exhibited by Maltese production companies. Pantomimes can be found being showcased across many theatres across the country, the most sought for being the ones at the Manuel Theatre in Valletta and Astra Theatre in Gozo.
🌟 The Magical Illuminated Trial (25th November 2022 – 7th January 2023)
The Magical Illuminated Trial is on the brink of its 3rd edition. Taking place at the Verdala Palace at Buskett in Siggiewi, one can take a walk along the trial into various scenarios luminated by lantern sculptures, installations, and projections. Scenes vary from exploring the bottom of the sea with ‘Sea World’, and the sub-zero temperatures of ‘The North Pole’ and others along the way. This year, the Christmas Village has been introduced for the first time, ensuring a fun experience for all the family. Although this event is available for a long period of time, booking in advance is advised to not be disappointed.
Tickets and further information can be found on https://illuminatedtrailmalta.com/
🎄 Christmas Magic at Popeye Village (8th December 2022 – 5th January 2023)
The set of the 1980s film ‘Popeye’ transforms itself into a Christmas Village like no other, where one can enjoy festive activities like a demonstration of elves preparing toys before they are delivered by Santa Claus on Christmas and meeting Santa himself at the comfort of his house. Apart from the festive activities, one can also visit the crafts area where a silver smith is displaying his artform, and Popeye’s comic museum, amongst others.
Further information and tickets can be accessed on https://popeyemalta.com/packages-menu/seasonal/christmas-packages.html
🌟 Indulge into the Festive Cuisine
From honey rings to mince pies the Maltese islands look forward to the Festive period, especially due to the Festive desserts and drinks that can be found mainly everywhere on the island. The festive cuisine on the island varies from typical ones that are intertwined with a Maltese Twist and those that have originated from the island.
The Christmas Log a festive staple dessert and is quite sought for on the island. Away from its original counterpart, the local method goes a little different. Biscuits are crushed almost into a powder, but some decide to leave the mix a little chunkier, adding texture. Dried cherries, nuts, chocolate chips and liqueur are mixed with the biscuits and condensed milk. Once the mixture is set, it is rolled and shaped into the form of a log and once it rests a coat of melted chocolate, seals this dessert.
Honey Rings known locally as ‘Qaghaq Tal-Ghasel’ are ring pastries that are filled with a local honey mixture and this local dessert is quite associated with the Festive period. The mixture for these rings consists of marmalade, sugar, orange and lemon peels, mixed spices, vanilla extract, and honey syrup. This mixture is locally known as ‘Qastanija’. Dating back to the 15th Century, these desserts are quite famous, especially in our sister island Gozo but can be found anywhere across the island, especially in cafeterias and in Christmas Villages.
The local Bread Pudding is another local dessert that is associated with this period. This dessert dates back to the 18th Century, where locals due to poverty used to create this dessert using minimal ingredients. Bread preferably stale (locals prefer to use Maltese Bread) is left to soak in milk or water for some time and after it is drained from the access liquid, sultanas, candied peels and cocoa powder are added and mixed together. This dessert is normally associated to homemade cuisine but can also be found in various Christmas Villages that are set up around the island during this Festive Period.
These Christmas dishes amongst others, preferable taken with a hot beverage or a festive drink and can be found at one of our a la carte restaurants, The Prickly Pear. The 3-Tier Festivi-Teas will be available to all our guests and patrons from the 1st of December up until the 11th of January 2023. Ranging from savoury to sweet treats to choose from, we are sure that there will be something for everyone to enjoy. Join us at the Prickly Pear, to taste some of these delicious desserts mentioned, prepared by our professional team.
More information on ‘The Prickly Pear’s 3-Tier Festivi-Teas’ can be accessed on https://admin.solanahotel.com//media/2647/festive-banquets-menus-2022-2023.pdf
🎄 Enjoy the Winter Sun
Although this can be done all year round, the weather in the festive period is excellent to go out and explore the rural parts of Malta and enjoy the outdoors, away from the above average temperatures of summer. In Malta, rainy or cloudy days are a rarity and on the other hand sunshine and clear blue skies are a common occurrence. This allows hikes or long walks to occur and explore different parts of the island.
Discover the breath-taking scenery that Malta has to offer and see some of the islands most iconic locations. As only one-fifth of Malta is urbanised, there are plenty of rural areas to explore, especially on the North Side of the island in villages like Mellieħa, where our hotels are situated or Dingli amongst others that offer a scenic and pleasant walk along the Maltese countryside or along some of the most popular beaches on the island.
Should you not consider yourself as the adventurous type, consider a walk around picturesque cities like Mdina or Senglea. Villages like Marsaxlokk or Mġarr offer a completely different experience. In Malta villages are still quite centralised on agriculture and fishing or other traditional practices, and a walk through these villages can provide an experience of what the daily life for these villagers looks like.
Together we went through some of the events occurring on the island during the festive period. Apart from this nation spread events, villages across Malta also participate in spreading the Christmas cheer in their own way and make it a memorable one for those who attend and these wholesome events are also not to be missed.
As G3 Group we want to extend our Festive wishes to all our guests and patrons. We look forward to welcome you at our non-typical winter wonderland and host you at our hotels and establishments.
By Mark Zammit