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Thursday, 7 December 2017

Krakow's Szopki - Christmas Cribs

Dearest sweethearts,

No Christmas celebration is complete in Krakow without the Christmas Crib / Nativity Scene "Szopki". December 7th, 2017, marks the 75th celebration of the Annual Christmas Crib Contest. This is one of the most colorful and most unique traditions that Krakow has - and it attracts large audiences, throughout the world. Once you have seen it once you will want to come again next year, and experience it anew! The "szopki" are an odd, intriguing and magical take on the Christmas Nativity Scenes, the crib where Jesus was born, but combined with the making of gingerbread houses and a touch of nationalistic sentiments, of love for the motherland - for Poland. The "szopki" are handmade and as colorful as they can get, the uniqueness of these scenes coming from their backdrop - which usually is the Mariacki Church (St. Mary's Church) or other important, well known buildings in Krakow. People do take this competition extremely serious as the best Szopki are put on display until the next year, at one of the National Museums in Krakow.
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The Szopki came a long way in time, evolution from a folk tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. They were at first used as mini theatres with mini puppets, and the play would be performed during the holiday season. Around the 1700s they were banned on church propriety and in the 19th century there was a prohibition of the Szopki to been be constructed! They were a powerful tool to make fun and point on the wrong doings of the leaders. Returning to the World Map after the First World War, the tradition of the Szopki in Krakow came back to life and it settled in as a custom, on a yearly basis. In order to support the tradition a contest was setup so each year the prettiest, most elaborate, most interesting Szopki would be rewarded with the due glory. 
Small wooden Szopki that one could buy at the Krakow Christmas Market in the Main Market Square
This year's event began today - December 7th - at about 9:30 AM when the crib makers and the specialists gather on the Main Market Square with this year's entries, displaying them to the large audience. They are always displayed at the Adam Mickiewicz statue until about 12:00. From December 11th till February 25th the Szopki are displayed officially in the Krakow History Museum, in Celestat. There you need to pay for the ticket but if you make a run for it you can still see them for free today, in Krakow's Main Market Square - next to Adam Mickiewicz statue.  It's truly a sight for sore eyes! Colorful, vibrant, they show happiness and joy to the birth of our Lord bit also the proud heart of the Polish People, who love dearly their Motherland.

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Krakow