The Christmas nativity scene also known as crib or in Maltese 'presepju’, portrays the birth of Christ in the Bethlehem grotto with Joseph and Mary. This is also known as the story of the nativity.
The Maltese are very fond of cribs. It is very common to find them in houses, schools, organizations and public areas. The majority of them have been created by Maltese, either by family members, or bought from a local shop, or else ordered many months before Christmas. They are usually made to measure with specific requirements of size whilst reflecting the tastes of the individual.
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In various villages in Malta, there are Christmas crib enthusiasts who open up their houses to invite people to view their Christmas nativity set complete with landscape and, scenery and made with pain staking dedication over many months and may be years.
If you are visiting Malta, some of these cribs could be exhibited at the official Malta Tourist Authority annual exhibition held at it premises in Republic Street, Auberge D’Italie.
In 1986 the 'Friends of the Crib', a Maltese society was formed and now they have over 300 members. Every year in the weeks running up to Christmas the society organizes an exhibition of about 100 cribs of all shapes and sizes all showing the Christmas nativity scene. They help to keep the Maltese crib tradition alive.
The Gozo crib association has succeeded to in stilling a deeper Christmas spirit during the year 2013 there were 49 crib exhibitions open to the public in Gozo. There are individual entries, by religious and social associations, as well as clubs and band clubs from various villages around the island. From small to big cribs, static or mechanical Christmas nativity scenes.
Visiting hours are daily between 6.00 to 9.00. Christmas Eve between 6.00 to 10.00. Christmas day, Boxing day and New years day between 10.00 to 12.00 and 3.00 to 6.00.
During these last 5 years, a live crib has been created on the outskirts of the village covering 20,000 square metres of land, where 150 volunteer actors from the village participate in a number of vignettes which recreate the life in Betleheme 2000 years ago.
It is situated very close to the Harbour of Mgarr from where the Gozo ferry crosses between the islands. Thousands of visitors both tourists and Maltese purposely cross over to Gozo to tour the live crib.
They are attracted by the natural atmosphere which is very unique - horses turning mills, villagers doing different jobs, like carpenters, cooking, feeding animals, shepherds living in a cave and children playing with the most simple things of the time. And not the least attraction is the crib with Joseph and Mary with a real live baby lying in a cradle of wood and straw surrounded with animals.
This is an opportunity not to be missed especially if you happen to be in Gozo during this time. Visiting days are between 14th December to the 5th January. There are selective days when it is open. It is important to find the schedule of days and time when it will be open for the public.
This is a popular live crib with 100 participants mostly from the village itself, located in the main narrow main street of the village. It is decorated with life size buildings and sheds with people wearing traditional clothes.
You find the traditional Christmas crib and houses decorated with ornaments and Christmas feeling. A live stream is even set up along this road. People are dressed up and act at various points along the trail. People can walk all along the trail and mingle with the actors.
Visiting days are usually between 8th to 25th December with 10 live evening exhibits between the said days. It is located in St. Andrew’s road, very close to the Lija parish church. It is organized by the St. Andrew’s Society of Lija village.
Apart from official exhibitions, many Maltese craftsmen open their homes to the general public to view their cribs to appreciate the dedication of these people towards, their ability of creating such artistic cribs. Some convert their sitting room or garage life size cribs. Invariably visitors engage into discussions on technicalities of construction with the owners.
Even at schools the idea of cribs is developed among children to instill in them the love for the Christian faith and love for our culture and traditions.
The Christmas nativity scene has captured everyone's attention to interpret the nativity story and use it to communicate with others the inner feelings of many individual persons who with so much dedication recreate these artistic works.