Malta has been identified as one of the best places to visit during Christmas, and I might have to agree. While it often did not feel like the Christmas season due to the lovely Mediterranean temperatures, the abundant decorations and lights, church bells, and Christmas carols playing more than made up for the blistering cold and lack of snow. Believe me, who wants a white Christmas when you can instead spend the day dipping your feet in the sea?
My family came to visit me for the holidays and we had the best time exploring Malta! It was actually kind of fun to act like a tourist in some of the cities that I see every day at home and school. Every street was lit up with lights that goes for what seems like miles, and the stores and hotels continued to play Christmas music until after New Years, which goes against everything large-scale corporate retail America advertises, as I was told that Valentine’s Day candy was already in the aisles before Christmas Day.
My house is approximately a half-mile away from the hotel my family stayed in, which only meant that it was really easy for me to go back and forth every day to bring my overnight bag to the hotel (I was not going to pass up an opportunity to experience free breakfast or carpeted floors).
Every day we visited a new town and I got to play tour guide for them. I took them to the old fortified city of Mdina, which turned out to be their favorite, and we visited St. Paul’s Grotto in Rabat, the location Paul is believed to have stayed following his shipwreck in Malta (Acts 27:27-28:10). Navigating the narrow winding streets, tasting traditional Maltese pastries, and exploring the WWII catacombs was a great first introduction to what Malta has to offer.
We spent Christmas Eve in the capital city of Valletta spreading Hokie cheer and enjoying the Christmas wonderland that the city had morphed into. They tried traditional Maltese street food and we attended a Maltese Christmas Eve mass at St. John’s Co-Cathedral. As Protestant Americans, we do not know either Maltese or how to be Catholic, so it was a quite different from our usual Christmas Eve services, but a wonderful experience to attend.
Christmas Day we had quite the multi-cultural meal with our usual Christmas breakfast of chilaquiles, along with a breakfast casserole and Maltese bread and pastries. We spent the day walking by the sea and they all got to touch the Mediterranean for the first time!
Other holiday activities included a tour to Gozo where they got to see the Azure Window, ancient megalithic temples, and the Citadel in the capital city of Rabat/Victoria. Side-note: the Neolithic, megalithic temple that we visited, called Ggantija, is 5500 years old, making it the oldest free-standing man-made structure ever. For reference, that is older than the pyramids of Egypt, Stonehenge in England, the Easter Island statue heads, etc. After seeing this temple, we found it very difficult to be interested in any other ancient ruins or old cathedrals, because, well, we’d already seen the oldest thing in the world, so what’s really the point? (kidding of course)
We took a break from Malta for a few days and headed to Sicily (post to come) and then spent the rest of the time in Malta visiting the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, stopping by the Santa Maria Addolorata Cemetery (if you know my dad this should not surprise you) and ringing in the New Year by watching fireworks at St. George’s Bay. All in all, we had a great visit, had tons of fun exploring new parts of the world, drank a lot of tea, and got really obsessed with playing Hearts.