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Malta’s love of Christmas cribs down the years

Description

Early 20th century Europe was defined by war and financial ruin but, every year, December 25 still brought festive relief.

This archive footage from PBS shows how talented modellers celebrated Christmas in Malta by creating beautiful nativity scenes.

Christmas cribs form a great part of the island’s tradition. In fact, a Maltese Christmas would not be the same without the traditional ‘presepju’ and ‘pasturi’. 

Cribs are positively everywhere, from private homes and garages to small chapels and large churches. 

Visiting cribs is still a popular activity at Christmas time, especially in Gozo.

Some of them are very artistic and elaborate, with mechanically moving figures, running water and much more. The degree of detail that comes from hours of meticulous work by dedicated craftsmen is incredible.

The earliest known Maltese crib was created at the Dominican Friars Church in Rabat in 1617.

The growth in popularity of crib building is said to have been led by a Franciscan friar from Sicily, Benedetto Papale, during Victorian times.

The crib building tradition in Malta has been kept alive by modellers and enthusiasts who continue to build cribs and showcase them to the public. 

It is thanks to them that this custom can still be enjoyed to this day.

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