Christmas in Malta has its inevitable routine. However, I noticed this year that the usual Christmas roundabout adornments were slightly later going out. Now that we have a lot of nicely landscaped green patches as we gyrate around the Islands, the consortium that maintains them, ELC, does us proud with a variety of cribs and nativity tableaux each year.
I don’t have much time to glance at them as I attempt to enter and exit roundabouts with car and body intact. But my son in the back seat loves to spot the differences among them. Last year, after we’d passed some, he said that few cribs actually had baby Jesus in them. Joseph and Mary were there, heads inclined lovingly downwards towards an empty nest. It hit the news a day or so later. Apparently the baby Jesuses were being stolen. Baby snatchers were in the news in Germany a day or two ago, but in Malta, baby Jesus snatchers make the headlines.
This year, signs are that the roundabout robbing of festive decor is back again. So far, we’ve had a Father Christmas stolen near Zurrieq. Perhaps it proved just too much a burden of guilt to go for baby Jesuses this time round (apparently, a Jesus was handed in to a ‘confessor’ in Gozo last year in remorse).
The price tags on the small models in the photo above do seem to suggest the snatcher-robbers’ motive. Why share the joy of the crib with all and sundry passing by in a cloud of exhaust fumes when you can have your own personal Jesus for free? I am foreseeing an amnesty being introduced by ELC after Christmas each year to encourage the snatchers to return their booty without prosecution.
But I write this from the UK in a small town where this year’s town square Christmas tree is surrounded by link fencing – to stop louts, petty thieves or vandals stealing decorations or damaging it? A sad state of affairs. Malta’s crib snatching may be a good laugh, but the trend to damage communal efforts to celebrate Christmas is on the rise. Our version is just less insidious than that elsewhere. For now.