Malta in late November seemed a great idea and the perfect escape from the cold. With warm sunshine and an azure blue Grand Harbour the city of Valletta seemed a world away from Christmas. Or did it? Malta has some great traditions and winter is a fabulous time to enjoy this historic city, complete with Christmas decorations.
The Mdina Glass Trees
Malta is famous for glass making and the shops are full of spectacular baubles and decorative gifts. In many towns on the island there are colourful Christmas trees made entirely from glass baubles. I came across one in Merchant Street, Valletta which glowed yellow, orange and red. Since 2011 Mdina Glass has created these magical trees which are then installed across Malta. Each tree has hand crafted baubles made by the traditional glass makers in Ta’Qali.One of the largest is outside the parliament building in Valletta.
In Valletta it was balmy enough to sit outside in winter but there was a slight difference. The streets were full of Christmas lights making it feel welcoming, festive and bringing winter warmth. Even the narrow alleyways had decorations for the Christmas period. The shops had some of the typically Maltese Christmas foods too like honey rings filled with dried fruits.
In Malta cribs are traditional at Christmas time so many shops had the characters and items for households. I saw an exhibition on Maltese cribs in the Inquisitor’s Palace of all places. Some Maltese people decorate cribs with thyme used for trees. There are characters within the cribs that are symbolic. The stupefied person for example represents those that are impressed by the profound experience of the nativity scene. Beggars represent the poor who find consolation in Christ. And climbers represent those who find it hard to accept Christ’s reincarnation but seek to discover more. Sleepers are representative of those who ignore the benevolence of Christ. It was fascinating that there is more to a simple nativity scene and that each community creates their own.
Getting into the Christmas spirit in Malta was a delight.