Christmas in Malta brings with it a unique festive cheer and local traditions that are a quintessential part of the islands’ culture. Locals tend to be quite passionate about their decorations, traditions and general celebrations. From Christmas markets to local religious ceremonies, scroll down to discover there’s plenty for visitors to enjoy.

Malta is a great destination for the festive season


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Malta must really have something going if CNN names it top Christmas destination three times in five years. CNN included Malta in its top places to visit during Christmas in 2013, 2017 and 2018; earning this position for two consecutive years is no mean feat, but you’ll soon discover why Malta deserves this accolade.

While visiting Malta during the so-called ‘off season’ has its definite advantages (fewer tourists, cheaper accommodation, warm weather), December brings with it additional cheer. The festive season is big in Malta, where the locals take advantage of any occasion for a grand celebration.

Experience Malta’s unique Christmas traditions


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Locals adhere to their traditions wholeheartedly. The Baby Jesus (Gesu’ Bambin) statue in a manger takes up a prominent place in the house and is typically surrounded by home-grown white vetches (gulbiena), candles, fairy lights and other decorations.

Village churches also feature the gulbiena with a purple damask during advent and a white one on Christmas Day. The biggest religious event is undoubtedly the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, which features the Sermon of the Child and the Children’s Procession.

So, here are our recommended top 9 things to do during Christmas time in Malta.

1. Check out Valletta’s Christmas lights


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Relish Christmas lights and decorations at their best in Valletta. Decorative lights blink and shimmer in every home and on every street, every road and every roundabout during this period; they  culminate in their full glory in the capital. If the UNESCO World Heritage site was not enough of an attraction already, this really tops it off. While in Valletta, wander down to the waterfront, which will be transformed into a Christmas village throughout December.

2. See A Record-Breaking Christmas Tree


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See the extraordinary display of Christmas trees in Birzebbuga; its 7-storey-high tree set a Maltese record in 2016 for the biggest mechanized Christmas tree with synchronized lights.  Valletta’s locally blown glass Christmas tree is also quite a unique feature. Which is the most amazing of these unusual trees? There is only one way to find out.

3. Entertain the children at Santa’s Toy Town


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Visit Santa’s Toy Town set within Popeye’s Village, one of Malta’s most popular attractions. Amid plenty of Christmas cheer and dance, see where Santa’s elves are making toys for the Maltese children on the nice list. And where to put those toys? In the largest stocking in Malta of course. It will be on display along with festive treats, a train ride and a market, at The Elves Christmas Factory in Dingli.  The privately-owned Malta Toy Museum and the Pomskizillious Museum of Toys in Gozo are also attractions worth visiting. Featuring dolls, train sets and clockwork tin trinkets over 200 years old, these are the toys Santa made for the children of the past. The Postal Museum and other museums in Malta may also catch your interest.

4. Shop At Malta’s many Christmas Markets


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Visitors are spoilt for choice for Christmas markets in Malta. But arguably the best are those that specialise in handmade crafts by local artisans. In 2018, visit the Malta Artisans Markets on 1-2 December in Floriana, the Farmers and Crafters Christmas Market on 7-8 December, the Jollywood Fair & Christmas Market on 9 December and Thrivers Malta Christmas Crafts Market on 14-16 December. Meanwhile, the week-long Natalis Notabilis in Rabat is one of the largest Christmas markets on the island and will run from 7-13 December.

5. Be Amazed By Malta’s Christmas Cribs


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The Christmas Crib (il-Presepju) is a widespread feature throughout the islands. Nativity scenes are lovingly handmade from various materials, hand-painted and completed with clay figures (pasturi). They often include traditional Maltese features such as luzzu boats, prickly pears and rubble walls. They vary in size, yet Malta’s Christmas Crib tradition reaches its apex at Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem, which is spread across 20,0000 square meters of fields. Alive with more than 150 actors and animals, this is a complete re-enactment of Judea 2,000 years ago. You’ll even find crafts areas teaching traditional skills and folklore. And there’s a tavern.

6. Go To A Maltese Panto


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Maltese pantomimes will traditionally revolve around a well-known fairytale and will include the Dame that’s traditional to pantomimes you may be more familiar with. BUT … the language is usually a mixture of Maltese and English. Plus, much of the satire refers to political or current affairs known mainly to the local population. Nonetheless, this promises to be a truly cultural outing. The Pantos are a traditional family outing for many and they always sell out. Why not add to the cultural occasion by seeing the Panto at the Manoel Theatre? It was built by the Knights of Malta and is one of Europe’s oldest theatres, active since 1732.

7. Peek Into Malta’s Religious Christmas Culture


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A rather unique Christmas tradition in Malta is the aforementioned Midnight Mass where a young child gives the (rehearsed) sermon. The early hours see a children’s procession with the newborn Christ as they sing him lullabies in their sweet voices. Even if you’re not Catholic, the event is truly memorable. Meanwhile, neighbours gather on the church parvis to exchange greetings and the parish priest serves the community coffee and Maltese date cakes (mqaret).

8. Say Goodbye to Valletta’s Year as Capital of Culture


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It’s been a big year for Valletta, the European Capital of Culture 2018. If you’ve missed out on the events and exhibitions so far, don’t worry, there’s a grand finale planned. The Valletta 2018 Closing Spectacle promises a mix of live dance, music and light projections in St George’s Square on 15 December.

9. Usher In The New Year With Style


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Spend New Year’s Eve in Valletta. The grand place to be as the clock strikes midnight is St George’s Square, where NYE 2019 celebrations will include several performances by famous local artists.

There’s never a shortage for things to do in Malta, yet Christmas in Malta certainly adds that extra little bit of spice! Have a very merry Christmas.