You feel a smile break through as the distinctive scent of cinnamon warmth pervades the cold air. Christmas is such a special time of year and celebrating abroad can make this time a relaxing experience for you and your family. In Malta Christmas is known as Il-Milied and is a time of great celebration and religious significance. So where better to have a festive break than spending Christmas in Malta?
If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Malta this Christmas you are in for a real treat. With a large, strong Catholic community and history, this has led to a society where Christmas has a special place in the hearts of the Maltese, and celebrations are both religious and social. However, the religious nature of the culture means that Christmas is of great significance, and most people will attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve where you will find the churches full to bursting. With this in mind, it is important to make sure that the churches are respected so make sure to cover your arms and legs if you are going to visit a religious site. If you want to attend a church service for Christmas there are many held across the island and each church will have its own calendar of events. Most will have carol singing and decorations, as well as processions in the streets that are usually a nativity including Mary and Joseph.
Whilst in Valletta, the beautiful St John’s Co-Cathedral is not to be missed. This stunning baroque church is the host to a night of candlelight carol singing throughout Christmas Eve, and often the days before. The presence of great artworks, including those painted by none other than the Italian master Caravaggio, makes for a remarkable service. The decorations do not stop in the Cathedral; the streets in the surrounding areas will be filled with cribs, nativity scenes and lights to spread festive cheer. The famed decorations have mechanical features so they move, bringing the Christmas story to life even more.
The customary Christmas dinner in Malta differs a little from the one you would serve in the UK and there is a wide range of seriously delicious cuisine on offer. Originally Maltese Christmas dinner would have been made from the fattest rooster, which would be roasted in a casserole that would contain potatoes and vegetables, this would be followed by a treacle ring for dessert. The traditional Maltese dishes are still served in many places but the British influence means that turkey and all the trimmings is now more commonly served for Christmas on the island. As expected, many restaurants will close on Christmas Day, after all this is a public holiday and most shops and facilities will be shut. However, hotels will provide a fantastic and traditional Christmas Dinner, and if you head to St Julian’s or Sliema you will probably find a restaurant that is open, although the menu may not be traditional Christmas lunch. These tables will fill fast so it is wise to book a long time in advance, if you want to be sure of a table for lunch on Christmas Day, otherwise you would far better eating at the hotel.