Kraków nativity scenes entered onto UNESCO cultural heritage list

Traditional Krakovian 'szopkas' or nativity scenes have been included on the prestigious UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list.

The decision on the entry was made on Thursday during the 13th session of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is being held in Mauritius and attended by over 800 delegates from 125 countries.

This is the first Polish entry on UNESCO's prestigious list. Poland's delegation to Mauritius included creators of the 'szopkas' from Kraków. One of them told the session participants about her experiences connected with the tradition stretching back to the 19th century and inexorably tied to the southern Polish city of Kraków.

A Krakovian szopka presents the biblical scene of the birth of Christ surrounded by the most recognisable landmarks of the city. Often, historical or contemporary social events are portrayed by figures in the scenes. The figures are often mobile and moved by various mechanisms with illumination giving an additional effect.

Every year, on the first Thursday of December, creators of the scenes gather on the Main Square in Kraków to present their works, which are assessed by experts. The competition has been held since 1937 with a break during World War II. The scenes can be admired after the competition at the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków.