Saturday, December 18, 2021

Cracow’s Christmas tradition, ‘szopki,’ goes on

 Kraków (Cracow) ‘szopki’, is a UNESCO recognized Polish tradition of making stunningly intricate and colorful models of nativity scenes set within the Kraków cityscape. 

The Kraków nativity scene is a unique phenomenon in the world. Its form was shaped in 19th-century Krakow, among bricklayers and construction workers looking for income in the autumn and winter period. Building a portable puppet theater, with the Holy Family on the first floor, in the form of a tower building with elements reminiscent of the architecture of old Krakow, was very popular until World War I. Then the custom became less popular until 1937 when lovers of Krakow traditions organized the 1st Competition for Krakow Nativity Scenes. Since then, with a short break during the WWII occupation, this beautiful tradition has survived to this day and is developing.

Every year, on the first Thursday of December in the morning, nativity scene makers gather around the Adam Mickiewicz monument to show their latest works. They are accompanied by crowds of Cracovians, the artists' families, tourists, and journalists. Each nativity scene receives its own competition number. For many years, the number of works submitted to the competition has been similar - between 120 and 160, including the vast majority of cribs made by children and adolescents.

This year was no different. 

On the first Thursday of the month, at 10.00, nativity scene makers came to the Main Market Square with their creations to take the best places on the steps of the Adam Mickiewicz monument. After the bugle call at At noon, a procession of artists walked around the Main Square in front of the stage, where the nativity scenes were presented.