Category Archives: Maltese Traditions

Christmas in Malta – The Maltese Crib

Christmas Traditions in Malta
The Maltese tradition of crib making (“presepju”) was influenced from Sicilian cribs. The earliest Maltese crib known was built at the Dominican Friars Church in Rabat in 1617. Another crib dated on the framework 1826 is found at the Benedictine Nuns in Mdina Malta; and another from the same period is found in Birgu, which has been over restored and not much left from the original. As cribs became more popular they also became more ‘Maltese’ with people replacing the Italian looking buildings and workers with local ones. Flour windmills were and are still popular features in a crib scene.
In Malta, two types of cribs are made-either in the shape of a grotto, or as the traditional large crib. The popular family crib (“presepju tal-familja”), is made with simple materials such as a thin wood base and chicken wire to hold the structure, this is covered with ‘paper mache’, made with home made flour glue. When finished, the crib is left to dry for days, before being painted with bright powder colour. Cardboard, burnt coal or pieces of rustic stone, easily found in Maltese countryside are used to structure larger cribs. Most cribs feature Jerusalem city as the back scenery. Some large cribs are worked mechanically creating the figures and other features moving around the countryside of Jerusalem with various caves, valley, hills with one word and streams.
The first Nativity scenes were decorated with expensive clay figures from Sicily. People could not afford to buy them, so several local crib dilettante, started moulding small clay figures and hand painted the face, hands and clothes. They were very rough and easily broken, so plaster moulds with local earth clay were used, and pressed to produce figurines called “pasturi”, derived from the Italian word “pastore”, which means shepherd, they were sold in many shops for a penny- “pasturi tas-sold”.
The most popular “pasturi”, were dressed in Maltese costumes, representing traditional crafts such as farmers, shepherds, the baker, climber, and the simple man full of wonder with both hands lifted up. Other popular “pasturi” include the musicians, the bagpipe player, the hand drummer, the friction drum player, and the two partners of Maltese folk singers.
The crib has become part of our country’s traditions. With great pride the whole family shows the decorated crib to every one who visits their home during the Christmas festive season.

If you are planning a visit to Malta enjoy your stay in a Luxury Malta hotel. The Excelsior Hotel Malta Team will make sure that you experience the unique Maltese Traditions.

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Maltese Traditions – The History of the Regatta

The 8th September is known as Victory Day in Malta. It’s a catch-all day because this particular public holiday has several roots, not one clear-cut raison d’etre for celebration: it marks the end of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 and the end of French occupation on Malta in 1800, as well as the armistice of the Fascist regime in Italy in 1943, which saw the close of the Italian bombardment of the Maltese Islands.
Every nation has its hour of glory in battle. The Regatta is held on September 8th in Grand Harbour to celebrate Malta’s victories during the Great Siege of 1565 and the Second World War. The magnificent Fort St Angelo provides an imposing backdrop to the sleek and colourful Maltese boats. Band marches, water-carnival, boat races and display of colourful fireworks are the main features attracting large crowds to the capital city, Valletta, and the Grand Harbour.

Rowing teams from the cities bordering Grand Harbour such as Valletta, Vittoriosa, Senglea, Kalkara, Cospicua, Marsaxlokk and Marsa, participate in a number of very exciting races, marked by extreme rivalry between participating teams and their respective supporters. For weeks on end, the competitors prepare for the races with fanatic zeal and rivalry. In the afternoon of Regatta day thousands of people crowd the waterfront and the surrounding bastions and craft of every description converge to the Grand Harbour to watch the races.
The first 3 winners in each race are awarded prizes and the club with the highest overall points wins the Aggregate Shield. Each year the different regatta clubs do their best to win the shield, which is strongly contested.
The Regatta is a great fun event and a source of great local pride. If you’re in Malta on the 8th of September make sure you don’t miss attending!

If you would like information about things to do in Malta during your holidays, the dedicated team at one of the leading Malta Hotels are always ready to help you. So for a pleasant holiday in Malta stay at a five star hotel close to Valletta.

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10 Things to Taste during your Malta holidays

Kinnie
Best described as one of Malta’s most distinct soft drinks, Kinnie is formed from an aromatic blend of bitter oranges, sweet spices and pungent herbs. While sounding like something a child might cook-up in their mother’s kitchen, Kinnie’s curious composites mysteriously align to form a devilishly tasty dark-amber nectar.
 
Twistees
Famously found in lunch-boxes around the island (adults included!), this popular snack helps to keep the wolves at bay between meals. Found in cheesy, chicken and bacon flavours, Twistees are the local version of naughty-but-nice nibbles.
 
Mqaret
Sweet and tasty, these deep-fried pastries are truly divine (so long as you don’t count all their calories!). Stuffed with dates and served as a warm dessert, often accompanied with ice cream, these fragrant and softly spiced treats are worth ditching the diet for.
Hobz biz-Zejt
The literal translation, being bread with oil, just doesn’t do this dish justice. A better description would be ‘ a rustic Mediterranean loaf ’. For this specialty, fresh crusty bread is fervently lavished with olive oil and stuffed with a combination of ingredients that include capers, olives, garlic, tuna, anchovies and sweet tomato paste. However, Gbejna – peppery cubes of succulent goat’s cheese, in my opinion, really takes the Hobz-Biz biscuit as the best addition to this delicious bread!
 
Gbejniet
Traditionally made from goats cheese you can find them pickled and plain or pickled and coated in black pepper. For a milder taste try them fresh. Enjoy them with Malta’s popular crackers known as Galletti. Nowadays these are available seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, herbs and even sun dried tomatoes in ready prepared packets.
 
Fenek
Often typified as the national dish, stewed rabbit has become synonymous with Malta’s cultural identity. Almost as important as the soft and succulent meat, however, is the act of going for the meal itself. Known traditionally as a ‘fenkata’, this festive feast is not only an excuse to gather all the friends and family but has become a seasonal occasion for most Maltese.
Timpana
Amalgamating two beloved dishes, Timpana gives you the ultimate pasta-pie. Made from macaroni pasta and bolognese meat, this traditional platter is baked in a puff pastry layer until lightly golden brown. A word of warning, however, this dish is best served with a subsequent nap.
Cisk
A premium lager, Cisk is one of Malta’s most significant exports. Locally brewed with a light and refreshing taste, Cisk can be enjoyed without fear of any beer-belly retribution. Unless, that is, you decide to down ten in row; then are making no such promise!
Bajtra Liquer
Formed from the flesh of the local prickly pear fruit (Bajtra), and shimmering in a translucent red, this luminous liqueur looks deceptively close to a cough mixture medicine. However, far from a revolting remedy, this sweetened solution slips down very easily as an after dinner treat. Some might even call it salubrious for the soul, (I said might…)
Pastizzi
With its very own Facebook page (complete with over 36,000 likes) Pastizzi can be easily deemed the nation’s favourite. Cut into diamond shaped pastries, these local delicacies are lovingly oven baked with a warm ricotta or a spicy pea filling. Transforming into an indulgent treat or tasty snack, Pastizzi perfectly epitomizes the sumptuous Maltese palette.

If you would like to taste some mouthwatering dishes visit one of the top Malta Restaurants at the Grand Hotel Excelsior!

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