Christmas Traditions in Malta


 The Island of Malta follows the traditional timeline of a Christian Christmas but they have a few traditions that make them unique. The citizens of Malta build and place cribs called presepji throughout the towns in public places and private homes. The cribs are decorated with clay figures of shepherds, street singers and baby Jesus. This tradition started in 1826 and the first known crib was found with the Benedictine Nuns. They also decorate the streets with lights that they call festunis and have a procession through the streets with children carrying small statues of Jesus and singing Christmas carols.

The traditional Christmas meal includes turkey and pudding, which was started by British soldiers, who were stationed in Malta during the first and second wars. They also make a dish called timpana that is baked macaroni covered with crusty pastry.

In Malta, Christmas is known as "Il-Milied" and celebrated on December 25.

Here, the festival is traditionally centered on 'Presepju' or Nativity cribs. During Christmastime in Malta, cribs are built almost everywhere and by everyone. These are then decorated with figurines, called 'pasturi'. The 'pasturi' figures represent Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the shepherds, angels, villagers and animals such as cows, donkeys and sheep. Thereupon, these are surrounded by lights and plants.

On December 24, Maltese churches are decorated with lights and nativity cribs built by church goers. The figure of the baby Jesus is placed on the main altar at the midnight hour of Christmas night, commemorating the birth of the messiah. At Epiphany it is traditional the figures of the ThreeMagi are also placed in the crib. A Maltese group known as 'Friends of the Crib' see to it that the crib tradition remains alive. Small-sized cribs called "grolta" are a favourite of children. Modern cribs are now often mechanical and the figures in them can even move! These days, the "pasturi" figures are also often made of plastic.

The tradition of displaying cribs first began in 1617, when the first true Maltese crib is believed to have been made and displayed in the Domenican Friars Church in Rabat. Since then, the custom has gained its ground and gone from strength to strength. In 1921, the renowned priest George Preca organized a Christmas Eve procession with a life size figure of the Infant Jesus being carried at the front. The idea became very popular with people of all ages and this is how the very special Maltese traditional Christmas procession started. The custom is hugely popular even today and form an integral part of the Christmas Eve celebrations.

As in elsewhere, every home in Malta has its own Christmas Tree which are decorated with light bulbs, tinsel and other items of embellishment. The interior of every house is adorned with Christmas wreaths, candles and all sorts of other decorations. The 'Presepju' with 'pasturi' can also be found in Maltese houses during Christmas. Large figures of the baby Jesus are sometimes put behind windows or in balconies and surrounded by brilliant Christmas lights. If ever you go to Malta, go during Christmastime to behold this splendid spectacle.

It is traditional to sow wheat, grain and canary seed, 'gulbiena', on cotton buds in dark corners in the house. These are sown five weeks before Christmas and left undisturbed. At about Christmas Day, white grass-like shoots sprout from the seeds. These are then used to decorate the crib or the statue of Baby Jesus.

On Christmas Eve, a procession with the Baby Jesus is held. This is followed by the Midnight Mass
Service which is attended by most of the Maltese population, who are Catholics. The mass begins with choirs singing carols in Maltese. A highlight of the mass is the telling of a story of the nativity in the form of a sermon by a boy or a girl, normally aged 7 to 10 years old, instead of the priest. The Mass is the climax of all religious activities. After Mass it is customary to greet "Il-Milied It-Taijeb" (Merry Christmas), to all those assembled.

Christmas Day in Malta is a time to celebrate with family. It is an occassion for family reunion. All extended members of a family assemble in one house for lunch and stay there till the evening. Christmas lunch in Malta traditionally consists of ''dundjan''(turkey), "qaghaq tal-ghasel"(honey rings) and "pudina tal-Milied"(Christmas pudding). Christmas dishes in Malta are heavily influenced by British traditions.

For this year Christmas Concert we have decided to use a new Christmas Maltese song. During this song the students wore nativity costumes and before going on stage they made a small procession with hand made paper candles. We have also made a large chart with the name of the song 'Helu Bambin'  which means 'Sweet Baby Jesus'. There was also a projector and a big screen with this song.


Christmas in Italy

The Italian tradition is very rich. We have studied some of the legends.

The legend of Panettone

la leggenda del panettone 

The legend of holly

the legend of holly

The legend of the Befana

The legend of the BefanaThe legend of Robin

The legend of Robin 


Christmas carols in the Church of Lauria

It revives the atmosphere of that holy night in 1223 with the birth of Baby Jesus showed the people from SanFrancisco. Legend has it that the statue of St. Child comes to life in the hands of the saint, blessing the crowd. (Giotto - legend of St. Francis)

The Nativity of Greccio

"Our" crib current is due to St. Francis of Assisi, who in 1224 decided to create the first Nativity as described in the Bible really was. The crib that St. Francis created in the village of Greccio was made of carved figures, straw and live animals.
The message was direct and could be understood and acknowledged by all, rich and poor.
The popularity of the Nativity of St. Francis grew up to expand all over the world.
Crèche is called in France, Germany Krippe, in Spain and Latin America called Nacimiento, the Czech Republic is said Jeslicky, says Pesebre in Brazil, and Costa Rica is said Portal.


Musical - Christmas Eve 1223







Christmas in Romania
is a unique experience to explore Romanian customs
                                           Prof. PARLEA MARIOARA
                              GRUP SCOLAR RETEZAT URICANI,STRUCT.SC.NR.2
Christmas in Romania is unique. Ancient times customs are piously kept at the countryside. There are more then 2000 year-old customs from our Dacian ancestors mixed or overlapped with Christian's traditions. And it isn't only the Christmas Day. It's a long row of holidays about. Each one with its own meaning, customs, stories and superstitions.

You can see Christmas holidays on short (that means 3 days between 25 and 28 of December) or in a large sense, the way Romanian people see them (19 days between 20th December and 7th January).
In fact I'd say we have a messenger of all this holidays on 6th December, Niculas Day (Saint Nicholas Day). For Romanians Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus are two different characters.

Next comes Ignat Day on 20th December. A sacrifice day. Pig sacrifice day. Reading my childhood memories about Ignat Day you'll find out the whole ritual. Or maybe you're interested in Ignat Day's customs and superstitions.

This day is the opening one for the whole chain that will come:
There is plenty of food and drinks on the tables these days. Of course, special Christmas food. And if you ever wish to try some of the Romanian Christmas recipes I can assure you they are very tasty.

But let's go back to traditions and customs. I don't know exactly how is in English but we talk about tradition when a custom is spread all over the country. And we talk about a custom when is only a local custom applicable only to a local area. Romania is a little country but it has many tradition and countless customs.
You can read about specific customs on each holiday page. But I think traditions deserve a special space. In chronological order we have:
All this traditions complete the paint of Christmas in Romania. Food and wine could be the best. But if you don't see a live show of at least one custom you can't feel the magic. The magic of a Christmas in Romania.
n Romania, Christmas is known as Craciun
and Santa Claus is called Mos Craciun
Christmas in Romania has retained all its religious and folk traditions. Red, black and white are the colors associated with the traditional Romanian folk costume. Black represents the winter night, which falls very early in December, red is for the finery of the children who go caroling through the streets on Christmas eve, and white is for the snow that blankets the country, sparkling under the stars for as far as the eye can see.
The Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve about 10 o'clock with walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, candies, apples and chocolates wrapped in colored paper.
Then the children set out through their neighborhood or village, caroling from house to house. As they go from door to door, the "colindatori" are given traditional treats in return: "covrigi" (large dry pretzels), doughnuts, candies, apples and money.
After Midnight Mass, children clean and polish their best pair of boots and place them at the front door for Santa Claus to find. It's there that he'll leave presents for the youngest children who have already gone to bed.
Christmas is also the time for pork butchering on every Romanian farm. Slaughtered on St. Ignatius' day, a few days before Christmas, the pig is meticulously transformed into smoked ham, sausages and charcuterie products.
The traditional Christmas meal unfolds as follows:
First courses
"Racituri" or "piftie," jellied headcheese, consisting of the pig's feet, ears and head in aspic, accompanied by a grated horseradish and beet salad marinated in vinegar, water and sugar.
Fresh pork sausages, either grilled or fried, garnished with "muraturi" (cucumber pickles), as well as hot peppers and green tomato pickles.
Various traditional charcuterie products are served: "toba," pork intestine stuffed with meat jelly, liver and rind; "caltabos," a kind of blood sausage; "babic" and "ghiudem," varieties of sausage, very dry and highly spiced, made from goat, mutton or beef.
Beef salad - steamed or boiled vegetables: carrots, celery, potatoes, peas and pickled vegetables (cucumbers, tomato peppers and green tomatoes), all finely chopped and combined with olives and strips of cooked beef and bound with mayonnaise.
Main dishes
"Ciorba de perisoare" - a slightly sour vegetable soup made with fermented bran and pork meatballs.
"Sarmale" - Romanians' best-loved traditional dish - sour cabbage leaves stuffed with ground pork and served with polenta.
Roast pork - garnished with pickled vegetables or mixed salads.
The traditional Christmas dessert is called "cozonac." This rich fruit bread requires a long preparation time that begins early on the morning of Christmas Eve. Usually while the men are outdoors butchering the pig, the women stay in the kitchen to make the cozonac.
Since it takes so long to make, cozonac is made in huge quantities. It has to feed the entire family throughout the week of Christmas. "For 5 kg of flour, 30 eggs are used and 3 kg of white sugar. Kneading the dough lasts at least two hours."
The filling is made up of ground walnuts, egg yolks, raisins, vanilla, rum and no less than 2 kg of sugar! In well-to-do homes, cozonac replaces bread at every meal, served with both savory and sweet dishes. This may seem a very rich diet… but keep in mind that the holidays have been preceded by one to five weeks of fasting. What's more, the temperature in Romania at Christmas can easily dip to -15° C, so the extra calories are required!
When it comes to sweets, cheesecake is the dessert traditionally associated with religious holidays in Romania. Every region has its own version. 
In some regions "grau fiert" is served: sweetened boiled wheat garnished with nuts and various flavorings.
Traditional beverages
Tuica or palinca - very strong eau-de-vie, usually made from plums Wines - mostly reds, depending on the region.
How do you say Merry Christmas in Romania?
"Sarbatori vesele!" or”Craciun fericit!”

Tree Type: Traditional
  • The star symbolizes the star of the Magi.
  • The lights are part of any momentous occasion of Christian life.
  • The globes represent the joy of the world. Some of the globes are handcrafted making them look more beautiful.
  • The dolls, which are handcrafted, according to Romanian tradition symbolize the purity of the child.
  • The apples, fir-cones and nuts represent the original ornaments with which the Romanians decorated their trees.
Traditions: According to Romanian tradition the Christmas tree was one of the gifts that the Magi brought to the Christ Child and Romanian families take great pride and receive great joy from the way they decorate their tress.

The Romanian reverence for the season is reflected in the presentations of the story of Christ's birth. From large theatrical presentations to puppet shows each dramatize the Nativity story. Carols form an important part of the Romanian folklore. Romanian carols are not simple songs with religious origin, but reflect many aspects of Romanian culture.

On Christmas Day, the boys parade through the towns and villages carrying a great wooden star (Steaua) decorated with tiny bells, colored paper and ribbons. The star is illuminated with a candle and is decorated with a picture of the Christ Child and the Magi.
                    Traditions of Christmas in Romania
                          By PARLEA MARIOARA
In Romania, the winter holiday season is truly in full-swing from December 24 to January 7. Highlights include: Christmas Day, New Year and Epiphany, with their respective eves. The most important feature of these celebrations is their unique variety of colorful Romanian customs, traditions, and believes, of artistic, literary, musical, and other folklore events, which make the winter holidays some of the most original and spectacular spiritual manifestations of the Romanian people.
Children of all ages go from house to house singing Christmas carols, or through the streets on New Year's Eve reciting congratulatory verse. The whole traditional village participates in waists, although mostly children practice this custom.
Traditionally, during the first hours after dark on Christmas' Eve is the time for children to go caroling and the adults stay home to greet them. As they go caroling from house to house, the children receive treats like candy, fruit, baked treats and sometimes even money in appreciation of their performance and as a sign of holiday good will.

The grown-ups caroling goes on Christmas evening and night. The waits -young and mature people - gather in groups and they choose a leader. When they are in the front yard of a house, they perform their repertory to the host. The songs are always accompanied by dance. When the performance is over, the host invites the carolers inside the house for food, drinks and presents.
Children make a star using colored paper and then they put in its middle an icon of Jesus. Many of children decorate their star using shiny tinsel.  The “Star Carol” is a tradition during the 3 days of Romanian Christmas.
While holding the star in the hands the children sing:
"The star has appeared on high, 
Like a big secret in the sky, 
The star is bright, 
May all your wishes turn out right…"
Throughout the season, teenagers and young adults especially enjoy caroling with the “Goat”. The “Goat” is actually a usually boisterous young person dressed up in a goat costume. The whole group dances through the streets and from door to door, often with flute music. This tradition comes from the ancient Roman people and it reminds us of the celebration of the ancient Greek gods. 
This custom is also called "brezaia" in Wallachia and Oltenia, because of the multicolored appearance of the goat mask. The goat jumps, jerks, turns round, and bends, clattering regularly the wooden jaws.
Bear Custom  * Ursul
This custom is known only in Moldavia, a part of Romania, on the Christmas Eve. In this case a young person dresses up in a bear costume adorned with red tassels on its ears, on his head and shoulders. The person wearing the bear costume is accompanied by fiddlers and followed by a whole procession of characters, among them a child dressed-up as the bear's cub. Inspired by the crowd’s singing:
"Dance well, you old bear,
 And I’ll give you bread and olives"
the bear grumbles and imitates the steps of the bear, striking strongly against the earth with the soles of its feet to the sound of drums and pipes.
 Plugusorul is a small plough. In Romanian folklore is a traditional procession with a decorated plough, on New Years' Eve.  This is a well wishing custom for the field fruitfulness into the new year. This custom arises from "Carmen arvale", a Roman wish for bountiful crops.
The ploughmen are teenagers and children carrying whips, bells and pipes in their hands. 
Mâine anul se-nnoieşte,
Pluguşorul se porneşte
Şi-om începe a ura,
Pe la case a colinda
Iarna-i grea, omătu-i mare,
Semne bune anul are;
Semne bune de belşug,
Pentru brazda de sub plug."
"Sorcova" is a special bouquet used for New Year's wishes early New Year’s morning. Children wish people a “Happy New Year!” while touching them lightly with this bouquet. After they have wished a Happy New Year to the members of their family, the children go to the neighbors and relatives. Traditionally, the "Sorcova" bouquet was made up of one or several fruit - tree twigs (apple-tree, pear-tree, cherry-tree, plum-tree); all of them are put into water, in warm place, on November 30th (St. Andrew’s Day), in order to bud and to blossom on New Year's Eve.
Sorcova, vesela, 
Sã trãiti, sã-mbãtrâniti, 
Ca un mãr, ca un pãr, 
Ca un fir de trandafir,
Tare ca piatra, 
Iute ca sãgeata, 
Tare ca fierul, 
Iute ca otelul,
Peste varã, primavarã, 
Nici capul sã nu te doarã, 
La anu' si la multi ani !
Merry Sorcova,
May your health be strong
And you life long:
As an apple tree
As a pear stately
As a rose bush fair
Blossoming beyond compare:
Strong as a granite rock
Quick as an arrow’s shock
Hard as an iron bar
Tougher than steel by far,
Over summer, over spring,
May your health be great
A New Year with happiness
And in everything success.
Nowadays people often use an apple-tree or pear-tree twig decorated with flowers made up of colored paper. The children receive all kinds of treats such as: cakes, honeycombs, biscuits, pretzels, candies, nuts, money. 
The Christmas Tree
The custom of the Christmas tree was borrowed from Western Europe. Supposedly, it comes from the pagan Germanic tribes and was subsequently absorbed by christianity. In Romania, the tradition of decorating a tree or a green branch was tied to the wedding ritual (the wedding firtree) or to the burial ritual of an unwed youth. As a Christmas tradition, it was encountered until the end of the XIXth century only in the houses of the German immigrants. After WWI, this custom spread in the entire country.
Christmas represents a special moment for all of us. It is a celebration that changes for the better our take on life, makes us see the good in others and open our hearts to them. All around the globe Christmas combines universal elements, like decorating the tree, with other, less known, region-specific ones.
The Pig Sacrifice
A few days before the beginning of the holidays the pig sacrifice takes place. This is done on December 20th, the day of St. Ignatius. This tradition is kept particularly in the countryside, where everything takes place according to a closely followed ritual. The origins of this custom date back to immemorial times. It was accepted and absorbed by the Christian religion as a natural part of the local community life. Christianity also bestowed upon it a religious significance, as nobody can taste the food prepared on this day until after the priest has given his blessing.