Posted by: annmucc | October 31, 2009

WBSD: Holidays and Celebrations

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.

Christmas crib in Malta

Christmas crib in Malta (Photo: Matthew Mirabelli)

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.

Christmas Procession

Christmas Procession

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 :).

Ris Ala Mande

Ris Ala Mande

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 πŸ™‚

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.



  1. The Maltese Christmas singing procession sounds like a wonderful tradition. The Christmas in Denmark is very similar to one in Czech where I grew up.
    Happy surfing :o)

  2. Hi! I loved reading your post. I’m from Ireland originally, but I now live in India. My aunt (father’s sister) married a man from Malta in London back in the sixties and was incredibly happy with him. Sadly my Maltese uncle died about ten years back. Other relatives of mine visited Malta on holidays and always said that it was the most wonderful country. I’m sorry now that I’ve never visited, but I’m only 46 so maybe one day!

    Your description of Christmas in Malta and Denmark was lovely.

  3. How interesting!

  4. I’m looking forward to spending a Maltese Christmas this year πŸ™‚ I’m going to miss dancing around the Christmas tree tho

  5. Ok, I’ve just make it life goal to get invited to Denmark someday so I can eat that ris ala mande. I adore cherries and that looks fantastic! Ann, is there anyone else in the world, other than MCA, who could do a Maltese – Danish Christmas comparison (and he would even have to wait until after this Christmas)? Annuca, you are unique!

  6. @ Ivanhoe: Yes it is…though often as you grow older you skip it sometimes O:)…I should definitely go this year and drag Michael (my boyfriend who will be celebrating his first Maltese Christmas this year) with me.

    @ Gaelikaa: Of course she was happy with him…he’s Maltese so obviously the best πŸ˜› (hehe :P). You should definitely visit Malta at some point…or so I think…but you have more years to do that I am sure πŸ™‚

    @ Michael: I am sure we can give you time to dance round the Christmas if you so want…just don’t expect us to join πŸ˜›

    @ Karen: At the risk of ending up killed by some Danes in the near future, I think it tasted OK but not out of this world O:). And I am sure there are more people who could do this ;)…such as my sister’s boss who is Danish and living in Malta, and the numerous other Danes in Malta or Maltese in Denmark…I don’t think it is unique…but I am sure my take on it is O:)…yes yes…so modest πŸ˜›

  7. LOOOOOL…we had a meal out with some ppl from work, and I heard about this going round the Christmas tree…do not worry Michael…we can put our Christmas tree in the middle of a room (at the moment where we generally put it it can me quite difficult to go around it) and you can keep going round it :P:P We will certianly look and laugh πŸ˜›

  8. @ Cec/Michael: I agree with Cec…we will certainly ‘participate’ by looking and laughing :D. Maybe Michele would join?

  9. Or maybe I can ask Peter over πŸ˜›

  10. @ Cec: And then they can dance round the Christmas tree together πŸ™‚

  11. Singing songs whilst running round the tree sounds fun, it’s the first time that I have heard of that.


  12. Cec/Ann: Hmm maybe not πŸ˜›

    Karen: I think we can arrange for an invite to Denmark next time you are on this side of the pond, so you can get your cherry fix πŸ™‚

  13. @ Michael: awww…we don’t want you to miss out you know πŸ˜›

    @ Karen: As long as you come over to the UK (and Malta? :P) you can then go over to Denmark :)…you have a lot of visiting to do!

  14. This is so neat, I feel like I got a great two-for-one deal reading this post *L*

    Christmas stockings are a longstanding tradition in my family too. We can skip everything else, but if the stockings aren’t hung it’s just not Christmas!

  15. Loved your post…the comparison of Christmases in Malta vs Denmark was great and very interesting!! Christmas in both places sounds magical and wonderful!

    Have a great day,
    Sher :0)

  16. Maltese Christmas sounds lovely. Much more traditional and less commercial than here in Canada. However I don’t think I could handle breakfast at 2am!

  17. I suddenly want Christmas, even though I’m not a big fan πŸ™‚ xoxox

  18. That picture above looks like Obama walking with the baby Jesus! πŸ˜‰ But then I read more carefully and it all made more sense. Great post!


  19. That was a really interesting comparison, Annuca!

    I see that the Maltese Christmas traditions have many elements in common with the South of France where I’m originally from… your post made me nostalgic for a traditional, old-fashioned ProvenΓ§al Christmas πŸ˜€


  20. @ Mub: I so agree! Christmas without stockings is awful! Luckily last year when I was in Denmark my boyfriend made a stocking jsut for that reason for me *Grin*

    @ Sher: Thanks πŸ™‚ and thanks for WBSD!

    @ Marilyn:YIPEEE! Christmas…I get to see you then!

    @ Jessica: LOL! I don’t think OBama figures in Maltese Christmas traditions :-/ πŸ˜›

    @ Emmanuelle: Yeah…I am sooo looking forward to a traditional Christmas!

  21. I loved learning about Gulbiena, never heard about it before and had to google Google images to see how it looks like. Do you know if the seeds are available elsewhere in Europe or only on Malta? SY

    PS My apologies to everybody that left already a comment on my WBSD contribution, I was forced to re-post it on another location and lost all your lovely comments *sniff-sniff*, SY

  22. @ Hospitalera: Hmm…no idea…I think you may…some people also use grains given to birds…which I believe grow red.

  23. Interesting πŸ™‚

  24. […] WBSD: Holidays and Celebrations […]

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