Kraków nativity scenes make UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list
UNESCO's Evaluation Body has issued a positive recommendation for the inclusion of traditional Krakovian 'szopki' or nativity scenes on the prestigious UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list.
"This recommendation gives us 99-percent certainty that they will be listed as long as no accidents of fate occur," explained Andrzej Szoka, director of the Folklore and Traditions department of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków. "It hasn't happened yet that a decision of the committee was different from the recommendation of the UNESCO evaluation body."
Szoka added that the museum and nativity scene craftsmen are happy with the recommendation, which is confirmation that Krakovian nativity scene craftwork is a real 'treasure.' The final decision on the listing will be taken in late November or early December at a sitting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which will take place in Mauritius.
The tradition of constructing Christmas 'szopki,' or nativity scenes, in Kraków stretches back to the 19th century and is inexorably tied to the city. 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.