Preparations for the third edition of Bethlehem f'Għajnsielem – the event that has enchanted thousands of visitors over the past two years – have now reached the final stage.
The nativity village is situated adjacent to the Għajnsielem main square, just a few minutes' walk from Mġarr Harbour. The life-size crib, constructed on 20,000 square metres 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. This year's event 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 October of 2008 Ta' Passi fields were an eyesore right at the centre of the village of Għajnsielem, uncultivated and abandoned, accumulating refuse. The NGOs of Għajnsielem, with the full support and the financial backing of the 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. 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.
It is no secret that the success of the event was owed to the artistic and creative abilities of project director Franco Ciangura. Today, the Fondazzjoni Bethlehem f'Għajnsielem has been established to take on the responsibility of organising the event which is still fully sponsored by the Għajnsielem Local Council together with the central government and a number of other strategic partners.
The community of Għajnsielem has once again taken on this massive but highly successful and extremely popular project. The army of carpenters, blacksmiths and skilled individuals, all members of the organisation, has been in action since mid September.
This year they were given a new challenge – don't just make it bigger and better, make it safer and greener! With just a few days left before the inauguration, one can already tell that this team of dedicated individuals managed to meet their challenge. Every dwelling has been enlarged and internally decorated to give it a typical Gozitan rustic look.
Each dwelling will be inhabited and animated by whole families, to remind everyone that Christmas is a celebration of the family. This year visitors shall be able to go inside the carpenter's and the blacksmith's houses and taste traditional Gozitan delicacies prepared meticulously by Mrs Carpenter and Mrs Blacksmith respectively.
The stream has been re-done to blend better with the surrounding landscape. The Tavern area has been re-shaped in a manner to give customers the feeling of being in a food court with enhanced views of the Grotto area. The surrounding fields have been cultivated with crops just about ripe for picking. Seasonal fruits, fresh fish and a wide selection of vegetables will be available from the open-air market while a local crafts area will promote traditional craft skills and folklore.
A picnic area will offer the unique surroundings for a family outing on Sundays while oil lamps will be distributed for those who want to visit Bethlehem f'Għajnsielem by night. The atmosphere will once again be unique.
The main novelty of Bethlehem f'Għajnsielem 2010 will be the Bethlehem Inn – a two-storey hotel with four rooms that will be available for rent! In fact, each of these rooms will be decorated and styled to resemble an inn around the time of the birth of Jesus Christ. During the morning following the night stay at the nativity village, residents can try hands-on farming. There will be horses, donkeys, goats and sheep to feed along with a wide variety of poultry. There will also be cultivated fields that require weeding.
The nativity village opens on Saturday and will be animated on the following days:
- Saturdays: December 4, 11, 18 from 4.30pm till 9 p.m.
- Sundays and public holidays: December 5, 8, 12, 13, 19, 26; and January 2, from 2 till 7 p.m.
- Christmas & New Year's Day: from 3.30 p.m. till 8 p.m.