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Christmas and New Year in Malta

Spend a memorable Christmas and New Year in 5-star surroundings.

The Hotel Phoenicia, set at the gates to Valletta among a 7.5 acre plantation of purple bougainvillea and swaying palm trees is the perfect place to see out a cold winter with some welcome sun. Edward Lear, who was here in 1866, was moved to invent new words to describe the beauty of his visit: "pomskillious and grophibberous", he decided.

By December 25th, Christmas Day to you and I, winter is yet to fall upon the Mediterranean island of Malta. Valletta's heady mix of sunshine with culture amid a myriad of UNESCO-heritage listed buildings also plays host to many Christmas activities. And while Valletta may have the greatest density of historic sights of any country, it does do rather well when it comes to festivity.

Valletta's civic pride manifests itself in spectacular fashion during the various festas, which mark the feast day of the patron saints with marching bands, religious processions, special Masses, fireworks - especially petards, and other festivities. Christmas is the high point of all this frenetic celebration, and the main shopping streets are filled with lights, activities, spectacular Christmas trees, elves, grottos and festive fun.

Valletta is great for working off the glorious festive food served at Phoenicia by Executive Chef Saul Halevi and his award-winning brigade of chefs. A programme of events has also been laid out to ensure our guests can enjoy a taste of Christmas and festive traditions on the island. Indeed, the 16th century layout and narrow, steep streets, make walking the best option, gently baking in warm Mediterranean sun. Phoenicia's erstwhile Concierge will point you to the best sights and attractions in the capital city, from the cathedral to the towering fortifications.

British traditions that live on in Malta include a Westminster-style parliamentary structure, and more importantly for festive revelry the wildly popular annual Christmas pantomime at the Manoel Theatre in the heart of Valletta is a must-visit with a hilarious Christmas offering as it brings Little Red Riding Hood & You Know Who onto the country's main stage. An eclectic cast of characters including the heroine’s ally Little Boy Blue, her larger than life relative Auntie Patka, her kooky grandmother, and a mysterious fairy set the scene for this unmissable tale of love, laughter and lycanthropy.

Mnajdra and Hagar Qim prehistoric temples is well worth a short taxi ride to understand how ancient peoples marked time, and as you dwell on 2014 plans this ancient centre for spirituality and time-marking will delight. There is a visitors’ centre offering a good introduction to the temple people and their buildings as well as two temple complexes with some of the best preserved ruins in a pleasant sunny setting by the sea. The oldest buildings here date to a time before the standing stones first stood at Stonehenge. And the temples here were proper buildings with monumental entrances, curved rooms, paved terraces, steps and decorative carving. Here you will see megalithic architecture built more than a millennium earlier than Mycenae, and you can finish your tour with a lovely fresh seafood meal at the nearby traditional fishing village at Wied Iz-Zurrieq.

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