Christmas in Malta Comes to Washington DC

In July, the Ministry for National Heritage, Arts and Local Government of the Republic of Malta partnered with Museum of the Bible to host an exhibition contest of handcrafted Nativities from artists of the island nation of Malta and its sister island, Gozo. Now, 10 finalists have been selected to have their Nativity scenes displayed at the museum as part of the Christmas in Malta exhibition. 

“The high level of quality of the cribs submitted for this competition testifies to the dedication and craftsmanship of the Maltese and Gozitan crib-artists,” a Malta Winds article noted. “An expert jury chose the cribs to be sent to Washington, DC. These cribs offer very varied themes, with some incorporating the Maltese landscape as part of the crib structure. Some of the crib-artists have even decorated their crib with original statues.”

The apostle Paul is credited with bringing the gospel to Malta (Acts 28) around A.D. 60. For centuries, the people of Malta and Gozo have celebrated Christmas by crafting Nativity cribs for display in homes, outside and in churches. According to Keith Azzopardi, ambassador of Malta to the United States of America, the earliest known Maltese Nativity was built at the Dominican Friars Church in Rabat, Malta, in 1617. The Nativity-building tradition in Malta began to flourish during the 1800s and early 1900s. 

“Through this exhibition, we are providing the opportunity for Maltese and Gozitan artists, works, and craftsmanship to be recognized for their intrinsic cultural and religious value around the world,” said José Herrera, minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government of Malta. “The exhibition is certain to generate interest in religious tourism and Maltese expression of Roman Catholic worship traditions.”

Select Image of finalists in the handcrafted Nativity scenes from Malta on display at the Museum of the Bible

The 10 finalists will be displayed at the museum from Nov. 16, 2020, through March 2021.

Museum visitors and social media followers are invited to select the winning Nativity. Votes may be cast in person at the exhibit or online via museum Instagram and Facebook pages.

The first-place Nativity will become a permanent part of the Museum of the Bible’s collections, and the nine other finalists will continue to be showcased in exhibitions in Malta and globally through 2021. 

“We are excited to showcase these beautiful Maltese and Gozitan Nativity scenes at the museum,” said Jeffrey Kloha, Ph.D., chief curatorial officer for Museum of the Bible. “I believe visitors will enjoy seeing how the Christmas story is told through this rich tradition. Again, we give special thanks to His Excellency, Ambassador Azzopardi, for helping to bring these Nativities to the Museum of the Bible.”

Additionally, Malta President George Vella gifted the Museum of the Bible copies of the first printing of the Bible in Maltese. Ambassador Azzopardi presented the Bibles Thursday, Oct. 29, during an event hosted at the Museum of the Bible as a prelude to the Nativity exhibition.

More information on the Museum of the Bible is available here. 

Select Image of finalists in the handcrafted Nativity scenes from Malta on display at the Museum of the Bible

About Malta

The sunny islands of Malta, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, are home to a most remarkable concentration of intact built heritage, including the highest density of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in any nation-state anywhere.  Valletta built by the proud Knights of St. John is one of the UNESCO sights and the European Capital of Culture for 2018. Malta’s patrimony in stone ranges from the oldest free-standing stone architecture in the world, to one of the British Empire’s most formidable defensive systems, and includes a rich mix of domestic, religious, and military architecture from the ancient, medieval, and early modern periods. With superbly sunny weather, attractive beaches, a thriving nightlife, and 7,000 years of intriguing history, there is a great deal to see and do. For more information on Malta, visit

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