Nothing like a Maltese Christmas
The tips of the Pyrenees could be seen breaking through the sea of white clouds outside the plane window. The watched blinked 16:30. I realised I had slept for most of the flight. For the first time in the past 36 years I was going to spend Xmas away from home.
Madrid airport was as bland as ever. Nothing really Christmassy apart form a small number of adverts in the chocolate shop at the arrivals terminal. I slumped in a chair, cracked open a beer and logged onto the wifi network, clicking away the next four hours.
The flight to Palma was over quite quickly and the arrivals lounge was bereft of any Christmas decoration apart from an inflatable snowman. Walking out the door I was greeted with a cold chill that made me rush across the parking lot to the awaiting car hoping that at some point some form of festive decorations would pop up.
Half an hour later I turned the home key. The smell of pines inside the house brought me back to Malta, and the cheerful greeting told me I was home. The blinking lights and Christmassy centre pieces on the table together with a cool fairy looking Christmas tree brought with them hope that Christmas exists here too.
The following morning I went out for some Christmas shopping. The village streets held no festive feel and both restaurants in the main square explained how they will be closed on Christmas Eve. But as I hit the capital of Mallorca, Palma, the mood shifted for the better.
Brightly lit stars hung across the roads from trees on the sidewalks, a huge umbrella made of lights was set across one of the squares. Shops were displaying 'Christmas sales' and everywhere commuters rushed by with bags of treats and prezzies. I popped into the shops and sorted out my last two presents and decided that what I really needed was a nice warm coffee. The Cappuccino sign is always a sight for sore eyes when in Mallorca, with the shops´particular ambience. A small trio of street musicians passed by providing my first taste of Christmas music since I had landed. In the past months I had been here four times and although it has all the attributes of a multicultural, fast spinning city, it has nothing of the festive flair of Valletta.
The Xmas lights at every corner, the carols and Christmas songs blaring in the main streets were nowhere to be found here. In one street I could count a total of six balconies which had something related to Christmas in them – and later I realised that this was probably due to the British and Maltese influence brought by the residents.
The plan for Christmas eve was laid out. Close off the day´s work related emails, wrap up the presents in time for Santa´s deliveries then off to the skate park. A nice Christmas eve dinner would follow at one of the restaurants which eventually will opt to open on tonight. Lastly a mug of mulled wine in the square before heading off home. But as I started closing down the laptop, a green dot started blinking at the bottom corner.
I took the video call and as the link came up I could see the rest of the family, cramming in front of the lens to send over their Christmas cheer. Cheeks already a warm pink through the consumption of wine and the huge Christmas tree blinking in the background. I could hear the distinct clinking of glasses, and clanking of dishes. Mum was surely setting up this eve´s family do. We spoke of how different Christmas is celebrated here and got a walk trough of all that was planned for the evening there. A joke about the thought of me skating brought a smile to all, and the call ended.
My glass next to the laptop still had some whiskey left, I gave it one final swirl before rushing out. I clicked the door shut behind me and thought that as much as staying here feels at home nothing comes close to the way we celebrate Christmas in Malta.
I got into the car, turned the key and headed off to the skate park... Christmas in Malta – I could already imagine the look on the little one´s face at the sight of so many coloured lights and baubles that fill our streets, together with various cribs, music and other decoration...but that will be next year...