The Malta Independent 24 September 2023, Sunday
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Editorial: No place for the Babe

Saturday, 17 December 2016, 09:29 Last update: about 8 years ago

It seems strange until someone points it out: there is no Crib in the entire Valletta except for a rather sketchy one in Palace Square.

They say there are 365 churches in Malta, one for every day, and a fair amount of them are in Valletta. But so far as can be seen not one church has a crib outside these festive days.

The government, which saw fit to set up a Crib in St Peter’s Square, did not see fit to set up one in the capital city, the city which will be the European Capital of Culture a year from now.

On the contrary, cribs that used to be set up, such as one in front of the Law Courts, are not being set up these years. Their place has been taken up by stalls of various nature.

That’s all par for the course, of course: after all, the Babe was born in a manger because there was no place for him and his family at the Inn.

There is a disconnect between Valletta and the rest of Malta, where you find cribs on many roundabouts, cribs next to churches, cribs in many private homes etc.

But what is good for the towns and the villages does not seem good enough for the capital city.

The songs relayed by loudspeakers tell the wonderful story of Betlehem and you can hear this in many shops. But surprisingly, there are radio and television stations that this year are not playing Christmas carols not even as adverts. One wonders why this is happening.

It is not as though the absence of the Babe means anything more than just a visual tradition. One would go as far as saying there is more Christmas spirit to be had eg in Britain than in Malta even though the Babe is not that present in Britain.

The carols, the carol services, the entire tradition, is stronger in Britain, a post-Christian county, than it is in Malta, which is still very much a Christian country.

Then again, in Malta you get a far more emphasis on Good Friday and its rituals than you get in Britain. So in a way it is a matter of the culture of the people. The Good Friday tradition in Malta has strong roots whereas the Christmas traditions, the Christmas Tree, the cards, the shopping spree, were all imported from Britain in colonial times.

A crib, a Babe, will not stop the onward march of post-religious Malta, nor is there any real call to do that. But many people around are feeling we have been moving ahead far too rapidly for many people’s tastes and beliefs. We have changed far too rapidly from one of Europe’s most backward countries (or ingrained in faith and religion if you put it like that) and are risking throwing away a wealth of culture and tradition that expresses what is the real Maltese.

Nor is it clear that by being so far out in front we gain anything except to cut loose of our roots and basic beliefs.


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