All Around Nativity Scenes
Thursday, December 5, 2019 - Sunday, February 2, 2020
Christmas is here once again, ushering in a festive atmosphere and reminding us of important people and events.
The Cracovian custom of walking from home to home with home-made nativity scenes dates back to the 19th century, although after the First World War the tradition started to decline. To help preserve it for future generations, in 1937 the municipal authorities held the first Nativity Scene Contest at the Main Market Square. After the Second World War, the competition was revived in 1946, and it has been organised by the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków (now Museum of Krakow) ever since. Modelled on beautiful buildings in the city, the slender silhouettes of the nativity scenes intertwine the Biblical tale with the boundless imaginations of the constructors, and their nativity scenes feature elements of legends and historical events. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas in Kraków without the annual review of the nativity scenes at the foot of the Adam Mickiewicz statue (always on the first Thursday of December) and the post-contest exhibition, in recent years held at Celestat (see p. 31). And it’s hardly a surprise that the custom has reached global renown: this year’s events are held under the honorary patronage of the Polish National Commission for UNESCO.
Since 2015, the campaign All Around Nativity Scenes (5 December 2019 – 2 February 2020), co-organised by the Museum of Krakow and the Krakow Festival Office, brings the beautiful constructions beyond museum walls. In the coming weeks, nativity scenes are presented in windows and displays of shops, hotels and restaurants; most are archival exhibits from past contests. And Kraków’s squares and other outdoor spaces come to life with large, illuminated nativity scenes commissioned each year form acclaimed constructors.
The dazzling artworks create a wonderful festive atmosphere and allow passers-by to follow different themes invoked by their creators: this time we follow in the footsteps of John Paul II and other Cracovian saints. The traditional walk around nativity scenes from Wawel to Celestat, held on Epiphany (6 January), is led by Michał Niezabitowski, director of the Museum of Krakow. (Dorota Dziunikowska, “Karnet” monthly)
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