Another World Blog Surf Day has come (remember my posts from the previous events? See them here and here). This time it is about holidays and celebrations. The guidelines were to write about our favourite new holiday and how it is celebrated. I think one of the only ones we don’t celebrate in Malta is Guy Fawkes Night. Unfortunately last year I didn’t celebrate it in any way, and it is due next week…which would be too late for this. So I decided to cheat a bit…and compare Christmas in Malta (I am Maltese) and in Denmark (my boyfriend is Danish), where I spent Christmas last year (you can read up more about that in the posts from the time).
Christmas in Malta
Christmas in Malta is a big thing. Being a quite Catholic country, the emphasis on Christmas as celebrating the birth of Christ I think still exists more than in other countries where the feast has become much more commercialised. Christmas for me is always a happy moment – I get that warm fuzzy feeling when it’s getting closer, a smile on my face walking through streets with Christmas carols on, and a big grin looking at displays. I always look forward to the time!
So first up in my Christmas preparations used to be the decorating the house. This normally happened in early December, often by my mum and me (my sister and brother always try to escape this it seems, but I enjoy it :)). The most important ‘decoration’ in the house is always the crib (possibly in most Maltese houses) which represents the grotto in which Jesus Christ was born.
Besides the main crib we also have a small Christmas tree (and many other smaller cribs which we collected along the years :P). We also decorate the cribs with white ‘gulbiena’ (read more about gulbiena here from another Maltese blogger), which we would have been growing in the dark for some time (or in our case, our aunt would be doing that for us :P).
Decorations done we then wait for Christmas Day. On Christmas eve there will be a procession with a statue of baby Jesus around the village streets, during which children get dressed as angels or shepherds and everyone sings Christmas carols. The procession ends in the church, where after a few more songs everyone goes home to rest before returning for Midnight mass.
Midnight mass in Malta actually starts at midnight! Although this is a longer mass than normal (of course, it is a feast), I never mind it! The main highlight of the mass is normally the ‘boy’s sermon’, where a boy (in the past an altar boy, but now any child, even a girl, or sometimes a girl and a boy together) recite a small sermon about the meaning of Christmas which they would have learnt off by heart. Being chosen for the sermon is quite an honour generally for the child (incidentally I never got chosen :P). This sermon traditionally always end with the child saying in a loud joyous voice: ‘Viva Gesu Bambin’, meaning ‘Hurrah to Jesus Christ’.
After the mass in the last years the tradition of Christmas breakfast is starting to set in, where after mass young people would have booked a place for this breakfast and go fro breakfast (this means breakfast at around 2am!!!). Being shattered from all this we then all go home to be rested for Christmas day when the big family lunch is on. This means a lot of overeating, overdrinking, laughter and noise (yes…we’re good at noise us Maltese!). Writing about all this I am already missing it…so glad we’re going to Malta this year!
Christmas in Denmark
Christmas in Denmark was quite different to what I am used to. First of all, they celebrate Christmas on the 24th, not the 25th! So when I was there last year we first went to the Christmas service in the nearby church. Following this it was then on to the Christmas dinner, then gift giving. I hope to highlight a few things which to me were quite different when I was there last year.
Christmas trees and gift giving: Before gift giving the Danes have this tradition where they all hold hands round a Christmas tree and go round (sometimes running!) singing Christmas carols. It was quite a hilarious moment for me! Following this everyone sits down for the gift giving to commence. The way it works is that everyone would have wrapped the gifts for everyone else and placed them underneath the Christmas tree. Then, the youngest person goes to the centre picks up a gift and gives it to whom it is meant for who opens the gift (smiles, thanks people etc etc). This is followed by the next youngest person, and so on, till all the gifts are given out. This is very much different to what I am used to…in my ‘tradition’ gifts are hidden underneath the Christmas tree and you find them there as soon as you rush down on Christmas morning. However, even more important than gifts in our family is the Christmas stocking (YES…my mum still makes it for us to this day…we have a long-standing agreement that we get no gifts as long as we get the stocking…which she fills with dried fruit, nuts, chocolates [and normally some money and a small gift like a pair of socks or something). To make it more interesting my mum has now taken the habit of hiding the stockings somewhere so we have to run around looking for them (yes…we’re all over 20 :S but we enjoy it all so much :D)
Another thing which they had which we don’t have is the ris ala mande! This is a dessert of rice pudding with nuts and cherry sauce. In the bowl there will be one whole nut which whoever finds it gets the ‘ris ala mande gift’. Alas, last year it was nowhere to be found…maybe I bit it and didn’t realise it? maybe no one put it in? Who knows! So we ended up rolling dice for the gifts :).
Well…I see I have written so much…so I will let you go…on to the next person: Eyeflare
Ahh! And the loyely Karen from Empty Nest Expat is following this trail of blogs on Twitter…Check her blog and twitter feed! Something mroe about her:
“Karen is an American expat blogger last seen in Prague. The Wall Street Journal said, “Her blog makes a fun read for anyone looking for reassurance that change can be a wonderful thing–and also for anyone interested in visiting the Czech Republic.” Including this information about Karen is our way of thanking her for being our Twitter Reporter on Saturday! She will read all of our posts and make Tweets on Twitter throughout the day about each of our blogs! How awesome is that!”
And yes…I agree…she IS awesome 🙂
ahh – and btw, if you want to get to the whole list of blogs just in case the link gets lost, you can read more about WBSD and find the list here.