Bethlehem in Ghajnsielem 2013
Somewhere, on a tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean, several local volunteers are in the final-touches stage for the fifth edition of Bethlehem f’Għajnsielem, the event that has enchanted thousands of visitors over the past two years. The nativity village is situated adjacent to the Għajnsielem main square, on the island of Gozo, just 5 minutes by walk from Mgarr Harbour. Appropriately called “Bethlehem f’Għajnsielem”, this life-size crib, constructed on 20,000 square metre (sqm) of fields on a stretch of land known as Ta’ Passi, comes to life during the month of December with about 150 actors taking visitors back in time to Judea of 2000 years ago. The atmosphere will simply be unique… horses turn mills, villagers go about their jobs, shepherds inhabit caves, animals roam in enclosed spaces and a poor unknown couple tend their newly-born in a grotto... It promises to bring the timeless Christmas story to life as never before.
When visiting the live crib one finds it very hard to believe that until a few years ago (2008) Ta' Passi fields were an eyesore, uncultivated and abandoned, accumulating refuse. The non-profit organizations of Għajnsielem with the full support and the financial backing of the Għajnsielem Local Council decided to take on what turned out to be a very ambitious and complex project. In the space of a few weeks, they managed to clean up and rehabilitate the area while converting it into a crib along the basis of those we build at home, only larger, much larger. The experiment turned out to be such a huge success that in the space of a month, the nativity village managed to attract tens of thousands of visitors from all over the Maltese islands. The event has already been organized for four consecutive years and after last year's absence, the 2013's edition is returning back on the Maltese cultural calendar to offer a unique experience not worth missing!
Bethlehem f’Għajnsielem offers a naturalistic reproduction of the environment of Bethlehem of 2000 years ago. On entrance, a map is given to all visitors to enhance the overall experience. Attractions include the carpenter and blacksmith’s dwellings, the bakery, an open-air market selling seasonal fruits, fish and a wide selection of vegetables, a local crafts area promoting traditional skills and folklore, a tavern, a farmhouse with panoramic roof and the Bethlehem Inn. Each dwelling is inhabited and animated by whole families, to remind everyone that Christmas is a celebration of the family. The tavern offers local food and wine while the picnic area offers a unique surrounding for a family outing on Sundays. Oil lamps will be distributed for those who want to visit the live crib by night. Fresh water will be flowing along these structures through a small stream with various water features. The main attraction is certainly the grotto, with baby Jesus in the caring hands of Mary assisted by Joseph with a donkey and a cow close by.
Bethlehem f'Ghajnsielem will also include re-enactments of the ‘trip’ from Nazareth to Bethlehem of Joseph and Mary on the 14th of December (inauguration ceremony) as well as the Adoration of the Magi on the Epiphany (5th of January 2013) when the three Wise Men will depart on horseback from a village in Malta to Cirkewwa terminal where they will board a ferry before making the triumphal entrance to the nativity village in mid-afternoon to arrive at what certainly is the main attraction of every crib, the Grotto, with the newborn baby Jesus in the caring hands of Mary under the watchful eye of Joseph with the donkey and the cow close by. A full day program will be issued in due course.