Like several European nations, Malta is decked out during the festive season. Streets in Maltese cities and towns come alive with decorative street lights – the bigger and flashier the better – and nativity scenes of varying sizes are created in schools, churches and other public areas. Several people also display figures of baby Jesus in the windows or balconies of their homes.
Since Malta is a Catholic nation, midnight mass on Christmas Eve is an established custom with an unusual twist. The sermon is delivered by a young boy or girl instead of a priest, and is generally preceded or followed by a candlelit procession of local children, dressed as characters from the nativity scene, walking through the church. Another interesting custom revolves around growing a certain species of pulse. Known as gulbiena, the stringy, white noodle-like shoots produced by the pulses are used as decorations around homes in the week before Christmas.
Over a century of colonisation by the British has left Malta with many English traditions including baking mince pies and roasting a turkey for one of the main meals on Christmas Day. Indigenous dishes like treacle rings – hollow tubes of pastry filled with a sweet mixture – and soup made from chestnuts and cocoa are also popular.