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Articles in this blog may be ESE news, academics pieces written by our team or events in Malta of general interest.

Christmas in Malta

CHRISTMAS, the forthcoming and outstanding festivity of the year 2015, will be round again as it has done annually since a long, long time ago. But it is not the same as the ones before it, although Christmas repeats itself, it renews itself each time.

The Season re-enacts in several ways the historical events of the Nativity of the Holy Baby born in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago when Christianity was born on this Planet Earth. And things have not been the same because much has been unfolded in tangible and intangible forms to conform with the changes of Time.

Concepts of Love and Happiness have been practised and intensified a hundred times over and displayed everywhere by none other than the Creator Himself. In scores of countries famous cathedrals, churches and chapels  are now in a feverish bid  in preparations for the celebrations as prelates and priests pull out of storage the ornate vestiary, gold and precious marbles as well as silver candlesticks and crystal chandeliers from their coffers.

These houses of profound cult are usually topped by tapering steeples and belfries all awaiting the signal “Go” to diffuse the evocation “Let there be Peace in the World”. It is the universal peace that Christmas symbolizes and renders it more conspicuous. The Baby born in Bethlehem, the Maker of All is revered at this point of the calendar every year.

But Man’s fleeting fantasy, love and fear of the powers above, has come up with other protagonists for the Christmas scene. Three figures appeared with Evangelical narratives and good tidings that re-echoed throughout the years and repeated themselves to remind the human race of its childhood days and the relative cheerfulness and joy to share with parents against the backdrop of a blazing Christmas fire.

Christmas is really the festival of the young, the meek and the poor. It is to be noted that the Child Jesus of Nazareth was born in poor surroundings in the midst of shepherds and poor peasants. Christmas, it may be added, was instituted for the sentimentalists.

The Western European and seasonal character that came into play is the red-garbed white-bearded old man Saint (then Santa) Claus who seemingly stems from the Saint Nicholas of Germanic or Dutch roots and whose jovial salutation “Ho, ho, ho” has weathered the centuries. As a matter of fact, New York and the United States recognize him much more for his wielding of a heavy bell and his sitting of children on his knees. The sight of Santa’s heavy sack bulging with toys for the young has never missed an appearance. Yes, Christmas is the jubilant symbol of all that is good.

Writers, painters and poets and even film-producers have worked in the candle light, gas lamps and electrical saga illumination for years upon years in immortalizing Christmas. What about Charles Dickens who has given us the so-called Anti-Christmas character he named Ebenezer Scrooge, a surly miser of never lasting repute? After all these years, it is not uncommon to hear a “party-pooper” being called a Scrooge for abandoning early a social occasion.

This assiduous attraction of the artistic world towards Christmas and its cast leave no doubt that good tales hold longest becoming, as they do, more interesting and alluring. Denmark’s immortal story-teller Hans Christian Andersen will never die in the mind of the sentimentalist and the moralist. The tale of “The Little Match Girl” has plucked at the strongest cords of human commiseration involving sheer sadness, a guilt complex from social inequality, fault-finding, helplessness and the like.

Christmas cribAnother leading group that had witnessed the Nativity of Bethlehem was the three Magi Kings who played a single role of Adoration and presenting precious gifts to the Holy Family. They also transmitted the warning of Herod’s lethal intentions. Contemporary artists dealt with the group distinctly from the others but taken all together with the rest, founded a single representation of the Crib.

This representation is believed to have been “created” by Saint Francis of Assisi who drew much devotion towards the formation of the Crib.  In the 15th Century, sculptors initiated their works in the form of wooden statuettes which they literally clothe in rich or shabby garments according to their social rank. At first the Crib consisted of the three members of the Holy Family but this soon increased with the inclusion of shepherds and their flocks, artisans at their work-benches. Today you are likely to see miniature waterfalls and rotating windmills moving with electronic devices.

Churches in Malta religiously set up a miniature crib for the people to visit throughout the Season while in private homes one is likely to find the crib sharing the sitting room with an overly decorated fir tree reminiscent of the gigantic ones in Trafalgar Square, a 21-metre high gift from Oslo to London, New York’s in Rockefeller Centre and the one in the Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square, among others.

December, the last month of the year would have been seen dreary and dull were it not for the lavish and thrilling Maltese Christmas Celebration that culminates into a spectacular and colourful festivity with the New Year.

Malta can well boast of its 360 degrees of alluring assets, such as, the mild climate, its hub-like geographical position in the Mediterranean, its chequered centuries-old history and cultural wealth, the English-speaking inhabitants, the azure sea and the local hospitality warmth. Neither one of these can be justly underestimated.

Nowadays, although there is an international yearly overwhelming dose of commercialization attached to the Christmas festivities, the essential spirit and divine message they convey are still the guiding lights for the roadmap that will lead to the Creator’s planned design.

 

Glossary

conspicuous – clearly visible

protagonists – leading characters in a drama

sentimental – feelings of tenderness

jovial – cheerful and friendly

wields – holds and uses

jubilant – happy and triumphal

immortalizing – living forever

shaggy – untidy

riotous – causing civil unrest

manger – a feeding place of horses and cattle

hovers – dominates

 

 

Adrian Mercieca _ teacher Author: Adrian Mercieca
About the Author:  Adrian Mercieca is a full-time teacher at the European School of English and was a former Law student at the University of Malta, then turned Journalist in Malta, winning a 3-year scholarship in Journalism in the US, and later in Italy broadcast at RAI and the Vatican Radio. He came first in a Maltese Public Service Examination (Diplomacy) in Malta and obtained a year’s scholarship in British Diplomatic Studies at Oxford University. Served as career-diplomat until appointed ambassador.

 

 

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Articles in this blog may be ESE news, academics pieces written by our team or events in Malta of general interest.  Please feel free to write to us with any comments, suggestions or any articles you may have written and would like to share with us and our students.