Category Archives: Christmas in Malta

Santa Swim with Beauty and the Beast

 

santa swim 4 day countdownFor the fifth year running, Grand Hotel Excelsior team members will be organising a Santa’s Swim. Colleagues, guests and members of the public are invited to swim in the clear, chilly waters of Marsamxett Harbour or make a splash in the hotel’s swimming pool. The event will take place on Saturday 3rd December 2016 and all donations will be in aid of the Malta Community Chest Fund.

As a tradition, the hotel themes its Christmas activities, and the selected concept this year is Beauty and the Beast. On the occasion of this year’s Santa’s Swim, Beauty and the Beast characters will be joining as Santa’s special guests to do a brave dive for charity.

Each swimmer will receive a Santa hat upon registration. We will be serving well-deserved warm drinks and home-made cookies to all participants after the swim. Facilities for showering and changing will be available. A certificate of participation will be presented to all swimmers. Those who are not willing to brave the cold water are still encouraged to come and show their support.

Once again, present and former local Waterpolo players are being invited to participate in an exhibition match. At 9.45am the MCCF representatives will start collecting the donations and registering the participants. The band of the Malta Police Force will bring joy with live Christmas music and will be welcoming the participants at the Grand Hotel Excelsior lobby at 10am. This activity is being endorsed by the Malta Community Chest Fund and H.E President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca is expected to attend.

The American Autoclub MALTA will be supporting the event by organising a static show in the Yacht Club area. Each participant is kindly asked to make a donation of €10 upon registration in aid of the Malta Community Chest Fund. Those participating will also be in the chance of winning a Dining Voucher for Two. T&C Apply. Participants are encouraged to register for this charity event by contacting the Grand Hotel Excelsior Christmas Desk on 21250520 or email christmasdesk@excelsior.com.mt

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Typical Maltese Traditions

It’s that time of year again when we exchange gifts and well wishes. Yes, Christmas is soon with us and this is a very special time for the Maltese people. The majority of the locals are Catholics and enjoy attending the midnight mass on Christmas Eve. One of the Maltese Christmas traditions which is celebrated during the Midnight Mass is the ‘Priedka tat-Tifel’ meaning preaching of the child. On this special occasion usually a 7 to 10 year old child does the preaching of the sermon instead of the priest, telling the story of the baby Jesus in Betlehem.

Another common activity organized by local churches is a mini pageant with children acting out the story of the Nativity by dressing up as shepherds, and as Joseph and Mary carrying a baby doll. This re-enactment starts at 11pm and is followed by High Mass at midnight.

Traditional Maltese crib

Traditional Maltese Crib

During Christmas time, churches are embellished with lights and nativity cribs called ‘Presepji’. It’s also a tradition to decorate the cribs with figurines, called ‘pasturi’. Cribs date back to centuries ago when they were first introduced in Malta by rich Italian noblemen. They did not become popular until much later and many were actually burnt. It is believed that the first true Maltese crib was built in 1617 and was displayed in the Domenican Friars Church in Rabat. A crib dating back to 1670 can be found in St. Peter’s Monastery in Mdina. This is treasured and looked after by the Benedictine Nuns.

As the popularity of the cribs increased, Maltese started building their own cribs and replaced the Italian ones. Moreover, imported Italian ‘pasturi’ were very expensive and many could not afford to buy them. As a result people started making their own “pasturi” of rough clay and plaster.

Over time the popularity of cribs decreased and by the 20th century they were considered old fashioned. To reverse the declining popularity of Christmas, in 1907, a priest called George Preca founded children’s charity and society called ‘MUSEUM’. In 1921 he started the tradition of a Christmas eve procession during which a life size figurine of Baby Jesus would be carried around at the head of the procession.

Xmas Street decorations

Christmas Street Decorations

In 1921, on Christmas Eve in the streets of Hamrun, locals gathered to partake in the procession. The streets were lit up with different types of lamps, lanterns and Venetian light to light up the path for the procession. The idea became very popular with people of all ages and so the very special Maltese tradition started. These processions are still popular today and form part of the Christmas Eve celebrations.

The Festive element is also seen in several Maltese households which are decorated with cribs, wreaths, candles and all kinds of decorations. It is also a very common practice to place a figurine of baby Jesus in the crib in the window lit up at night. Maltese families set up the Christmas tree and Christmas decorations at home. Although English is widely spoken and English Christmas carols are very popular, Maltese have their own Christmas carol ‘Ninni la tibkix izjed’ which translates to sleep and cry no more. Similarly to many other countries, presents are delivered by Father Christmas or Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and are opened in the early morning of Christmas Day.

Christmas is also celebrated at schools with children acting during their Christmas concert. They do Christmas themed plays, mimes, poetry recitals, Christmas Carols and many others. It is also a common practice for classes to organize a small party prior to the Christmas holidays. Children bring some homemade food, presents are exchanged and a donation is collected for one of the local charities.

In the past, the traditional Maltese Christmas meal differed from today’s. Nowadays families eat Turkey, Christmas Cake, Christmas Pudding and Minced Pies; which is a result of the British influence during their rule in Malta. Traditionally, the Maltese house-wife would keep the largest rooster, ‘hasi’ for Christmas Lunch, which was roasted at the local bakery in a casserole full of potatoes and vegetables. The traditional dessert served at Christmas was the Treacle Ring, ‘Qaghqa tal-Ghasel’, and to finish it off, a hot Chestnut and Cocoa Soup, ‘Imbuljuta tal-Qastan’, which was and is served as a cosy night cap during the cold December days in Malta.

Visiting Malta this Festive Season? Celebrate the Christmas spirit at a luxury hotel in Malta and if you’d like to visit some of the traditional Maltese cribs and enjoy the local Christmas atmosphere kindly speak to Our Concierge Team.

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Merry Christmas from the Grand Hotel Excelsior Team

Merry Christmas

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