Constructing handmade Nativity scenes set in elaborate landscapes called “cribs” is a centuries-old tradition that carries strong significance in Maltese culture. This year, in partnership with the museum, the nation of Malta sponsored a crib-decorating contest. The top 10 entries will be featured in this all-new exhibition, Christmas in Malta. Topping out at over 7 feet in diameter, these intricately sculpted works of art will amaze even the youngest museum guest.
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Raymond Deguara, with terracotta figures by Jesmond Micallef and lighting by Mario Ebejer, set this Nativity in a traditional Maltese farmhouse. Notice the pillar with a cross and the figure of a saint carved into a niche in the wall. These are common features found in homes in Maltese villages.
Kenrick Aquilina, with Clyde Bongailas and Mikael Schembri, set this Nativity in a Jewish village at the time of the birth of Jesus. The houses are placed amidst caves, the largest contains a common figure seen in Maltese cribs, a shepherd kneeling in front of baby Jesus.
Joseph Cassar set this Nativity in Bethlehem during the time of the birth of Jesus. A traditional Maltese windmill is set atop a tiered Bethlehem village, with terraced houses, a waterfall, and pastures. The scene of Jesus’s birth is central, with an angel above.
Brian Cachia, with help from his son, set this Nativity in a village from the region of Palestine. It features valleys, small villages, and a cave in which Mary is shown lying down while baby Jesus is in the hands of Joseph. Nearby shepherds arrive as a lady holding a young child looks on.
Jean Paul Portelli
Jean Paul Portelli set this Nativity on the island of Gozo, which is part of the Maltese archipelago. Traditional Gozitan Nativities typically include a sleeping man who represents people who do not believe in Jesus, a dark-skinned man who represents the people who Jesus came to help, and prickly pear cacti that represent local Maltese plants.
Jennings Falzon set this Nativity amidst Maltese scenery, including the “Azure Window,” which stood at the west end of the island of Gozo before it collapsed in 2017. The figures are represented in a theatrical form, reminiscent of the Old Masters and classical sculpture.
Adrian Gatt and Raymond Zammit
Adrian Gatt and Raymond Zammit, with figures by Jesmond Micallef, set this Nativity in a Maltese house partly demolished during the Second World War. Around the scene, musicians play traditional Maltese instruments, while a woman in traditional dress (għonella) walks with her daughter.