Christmas creches captivate Krakow crowds

Christmas creches captivate Krakow crowds

Crowds descended on Krakow’s Main Market Square on Thursday to witness the launch of the city’s 71st nativity scene contest.


Contestants bring their nativity scenes to the square.
fot.Jacek Bednarczyk/PAP/EPA

The colourful creches, besides presenting the the infant Christ in a manger, also draw inspiration from local architecture and folklore. Student Andrzej Malik was up until 3 in the morning putting the finishing touches on his concoction. He began work on it two months ago. As is the case with several other entrants, Malik’s family has been making the nativity scenes (szopki) for several generations. He himself has been crafting creches since he was seven years old. “There was a little pressure, as my sister didn’t want to make the nativity scenes and there was an argument in the family,” Malik told Polish Radio. “But now I do it with joy, and I’m proud that I can stand here today.”

In the 19th century, masons made the nativity scenes after snow stalled work on building sites. The creches were sold to well-to-do families as a means of making a little extra money. Concerned that the tradition might die out, the city launched an annual competition in 1937. Although the contest had to be aborted during the Second World War, the custom was revived following the Nazi occupation, and the opening phase is typically held on the first Thursday of December. Prizes will be awarded this Sunday in categories according to the size of the scenes and the age of the contestants. An exhibition of this year’s creches opens on 9 December at the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow, and it will run until 23 February 2014.


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