The Malta Independent 26 March 2019, Tuesday

A Maltese twist to the nativity crib: a celebration of tradition

Giulia Magri Tuesday, 6 November 2018, 18:58 Last update: about 6 months ago

Valletta 2018 Chairman Jason Micallef inaugurated the Nativity scene set up at the Triton Square, calling it the perfect way to launch the festive celebrations in the European Capital of Culture.

Micallef said that the craft of crib building has slowly declined over the past few years, yet he hopes that this Nativity scene in particular will change the discourse regarding a tradition which dates back to the nineteenth century.

The Nativity scene was designed and executed by Maltese artist Manwel Grech; who was also present.


The crib depicts the traditional nativity scene decorated with a touch of common Maltese traditional decorations. The scene includes a Luzzu, the traditional Maltese fishing boat and a Girna, a hut which served as a famers' early dwelling.  Apart from the eccentric twist on an already Maltese tradition, the crib in particular was exhibited in Saint Peters' Square at the Vatican during the 2016 Christmas period. The following year the crib was also exhibited in Bethlehem.  Minister of Justice, Culture and Local Government, Owen Bonnici recalls the exact moment watching Pope Francis pray in front of the Maltese crib. 'That was the most beautiful moment in these five years of governing for me'.

Amongst others, Bonnici was also critical and when the first ideas of the crib emerged, but today looks back and believes it to be one of the best means of celebrating a Maltese Christmas tradition. Both Bonnici and Micallef praise Manwel Grech's crib, for not only reflecting years of Maltese crib craftsmanship but also Maltese artistic flair. Parliamentary Secretary Deo Debattista comments that the Nativity scene crib is a fundamental part of Maltese tradition, and both culture and religion intertwine together, in which case Grech's crib also collaborates creativity.

Micallef also mentioned that later during the Christmas period the Foundation will organise another tradition which is slowly fading amongst the Maltese. To continue the celebration of the Nativity scene, the Foundation will host a traditional procession with Baby Jesus, throughout the streets of Valletta which will then end in front of the Crib in the Triton Square.


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