Gozo’s jolliest season officially starts on December 3rd. Whilst remaining rooted to the birth of Jesus, Gozo’s Christmas celebrations have embraced modern and western overtones so there’s a bit of everything during this season. Here’s our quick guide to the celebrations.
The First Gozo International Choir Festival: One very important event this year, will be the First Gozo International Choir Festival that will take place on the 9th and 10th December. The Festival will be held at St. Peter and Paul’s Basilica in Nadur, The Nativity of Our Lady Basilica in Xaghra and St. John the Baptist Rotunda in Xewkija. Various choirs from Gozo, Italy, Estonia, Hungary and the UK will be taking part. Throughout the season, there will be numerous other Christmas concerts by different choirs, bands and musical ensembles.
Don’t miss out the lights: Christmas is a celebration of light. Many houses will be looking their best during the season as they will be decked out with many decorations and lights, but the streets will be a real feast for the eyes at night. Republic Street in Gozo will be officially lit on Saturday 3rd December. And speaking of light, the village of Santa Luċija will be holding a traditional Light Festival on Saturday 10th December.
Bethlehem f’Għajnsielem: One of the major attractions is the live crib of Bethlehem f’Għajnsielem. This place presents not only the nativity scene complete with stable, inn, shepherds, fishermen and the market but it is an outstandingly vivid representation of several Gozitan traditional skills and crafts.
Christmas Markets & Village: Traditional artisanal markets will be held in the villages of San Lawrenz and Nadur. It’s a great opportunity to acquire some genuine authentic products. Lunzjata valley will be transformed into a natural Christmastide scene on Saturday 10th December. Ta’ Dbieġi Crafts village will be converted into a Christmas Village with fun activities for all the family, on Sunday 11th December.
The Santa Parade: On 17th December, Gozo will hold the Santa Parade, a relatively new addition to the Christmas Calendar, but one that is enjoyed by children and adults alike.
Gift-giving and shopping: Christmas is all about giving. During the season, most of Gozo’s shopping centres, malls and smaller shops will be open on holidays and weekends and for longer hours too!
Meet Santa Claus or Father Christmas: Kids might have already written and sent off the letter to Santa Claus, but where can they get a chance to meet him in Gozo? Around the island, several centres organise present delivery by Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and if you want your picture taken with him then visit Ta’ Dbieġi Crafts Village on Sunday 11th December or be on the lookout as you do your shopping in Rabat.
Treats and sweets: You can find mince pies, gingerbread cookies, Christmas log, Panettone and the traditional fruit cake imbued with liquor, but Gozo’s traditional Christmas treat is the honey ring, a pastry filled with soft treacle filling. Most bakeries and even supermarkets will have this treat during the season!
The tallest tree: Christmas trees are not a native tradition but one that over the years has been embraced whole-heartedly. All villages will setup prominent Christmas trees in their main square but the tallest one to check out would be the one in the main square of the village of Ta’ Sannat. The beauty of this tree is that this is a real-live Araucaria tree that has stood in the square for many decades now.
Cribs: Gozo’s number one Christmas tradition is the representation of the nativity scene. Many homes will display cribs or baby Jesus in their front window whilst various centres and villages will have cribs on displays during the season. A number of cribs will be on display in private homes too.
Midnight Mass: Catholic celebrations reach their peak at the midnight mass, a mass where traditionally the sermon is made by a boy who recites the sermon by heart. After the mass, many villages will gather for traditional refreshments on the church’s parvis to celebrate the occasion.
Processions with Baby Jesus: Christmas celebrations are also known for the procession with Baby Jesus, where older boys attending MUSEUM carry the statue of Baby Jesus shoulder high through the village streets. Younger children carry lanterns and the whole procession is usually accompanied by a brass band playing and or people singing Christmas carols.
Philanthropy: A joyous season is enriched with giving. During the season, Gozo along with its sister island Malta is engaged in fund-raising for the Malta Community Chest Fund.
It’s not without reason that Gozo has been hailed as the island of joy. Joining the locals for Christmas celebrations also means a great holiday!