Updated 4.30pm

Christmas in the City, a programme of events in Valletta, was launched on Monday despite COVID-19 concerns. 

The programme was put together by the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry for National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government and the Valletta Cultural Agency.

“We want to keep the Christmas spirit alive while continuing to help and support local industry. We believe that this balance can be achieved through an ongoing economic activity even when it comes to Christmas shopping, while people keep following the necessary precautions,” Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli told a press conference. 

She urged those who usually spend their holidays abroad to consider places such as boutique hotels and restaurants in Valletta and to enjoy the atmosphere that will be similar to that of other cities, but also a unique one.

The Christmas programme for this year will be different but in line with the latest measures issued by the Health Department, she added. 

Culture Minister José Herrera said arts and culture will once again lead to economic and social regeneration.

"Despite the particular times we are living in, it is vital that we continue supporting artists with our participation as members of the audience, and that cultural events continue to be held," he said. 

Events kick off on November 20 when the Christmas lights are switched on in Valletta's Republic and Merchants Streets. All the facades in St George’s Square will have festive lighting for the first time.

Events continue till the end of the year and include performing arts, street theatre, music and Christmas choirs. 

The Valletta Cultural Agency will present small and medium events in several places including Pjazza de Valette, Freedom Square, Republic Street, Great Siege Square, St George’s Square, is-Suq and Strada Stretta.

The programme also includes a free parking scheme for Valletta visitors on Black Friday (November 27) and the key shopping days on the public holidays of December 8 and 13. 

Speakers at the press conference said they will be making sure restrictions imposed by the health authorities are observed.  

Current measures in place to restrict the spread of COVID-19 include the closure of all bars until December, mandatory mask-wearing and a limit of six on the number of people who can gather together in public. 

Chamber of SMEs welcomes event

In a statement, the Chamber of SMEs said that the year 2020 has changed life as we know it and adapting has proven very hard for everyone, including businesses.

Valletta establishments have been hit hard by the pandemic since they are very dependent on tourists and cruise liners, the chamber said, welcoming the support of the tourism and culture ministries, the MTA and the Valletta Cultural Agency for taking onboard its views on the matter.

"During recent years Valletta has undergone a massive regeneration process and today it not only houses top brands and exquisite eateries but it is a true destination for its visitors.

"With its large open spaces, beautiful architecture and museums, Valletta will be an ideal spot to get into the Christmas spirit while following safety protocols. Valletta will offer the necessary safe outing many families are hoping to enjoy this festive season."

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