An average-sized nativity scene in Kraków — illuminated, mechanical, three-levelled, five-towered, with 23 wooden painted figures. In the recess, on a round platform the figures of carol singers are spinning around (death, Herod, a soldier, a Jew, an angel, a devil), entering and exiting through decorated portals; in the centre there is a Christmas tree against a stained-glass window; in the foreground is a group of Lajkonik, raftsmen with maces, and a band of Mlaskots (musicians from Zwierzyniec who accompanied Lajkonik, playing the drums, the violin and the bass).
The exhibited Krakow-style nativity scene was made by the inhabitants of Dobczyce and donated to the Regional Museum in Dobczyce by the local firefighters.
Maciej Moszew is the author of the nativity scene presented. He has been participating in the Kraków Nativity Play Competition continuously since 1961. Mr. Moszew, a resident of Kraków by birth and by passion, began his adventure with nativity scenes at the age of six. He is an architect by profession, which is reflected in his works, but his real passion, which can happily be described in the case of Maciej Moszew also as a profession, is constructing nativity scenes.
This puppet nativity scene made by the carpenter Franciszek Zięba in 1935 is the first exhibit donated to the Museum – the Vistula Ethnographic Park in Wygiełzów and the Lipowiec Castle. The base of the nativity scene is adapted to the needs of puppet theatre.
The originator of the idea of creating an artistic cabaret was Jan August Kisielewski, after his return from Paris. Cukiernia Lwowska [Lviv Confectionery], run by Jan Michalik, was a meeting place for the Kraków bohemians to which belonged students and graduates of the Academy...
Kraków nativity scene, small, illuminated, not mechanical, multi-towered. The Holy Family is in the middle, set against the altar. On the right is a figure of a Kraków resident with a nativity scene, on the left is a figure of a highlander with a star. Above, in the recess (a kind of a side-altar), a figure of Christ (like from a contemporary painting), on the right a figure of a nun (St. Faustina).
Full wooden sculpture depicting a man’s figure dressed in a folk outfit similar to outfits worn by Podhale highlanders in the 2nd half of the 19th century. It was purchased for the Tatra Museum’s collection in the 1990s. There is no information about its author, place, or time of completion.
A model of a puppet nativity scene, symmetrical, with two storeys and five towers, provided with carrying handles on its sides. The entire structure is made of wood, the base and the upper floor of boards, and the frame from strips of wood. The walls are made of cardboard; the ground floor is covered with red paper with “bricks” painted with black ink and the walls of the upper floor and towers are covered with paper cut-outs in the shape of windows and star ornaments. The floors are separated with a decoration of horizontal, multicoloured stripes with silver teeth on the sides.
Turoń (horned creature), or actually the head of one, i.e. a head of an animal with ears and horns made of several hefty pieces of wood nailed together and mounted on a stick. Originating from Stary Sącz (1908), this Turoń head, just like other similar exhibits from the very beginning of the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków, has been shown at the permanent exhibition in the form it was used in, i.e. as a part of an animal monster, a disguise of a member of a group of carollers.
A funny puppet representing Jacek Malczewski in a caricatural character of Jacek Symbolewski was purchased for the collection of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków in 1962. It makes a valuable reminder related with the Young Poland cabaret called Zielony Balonik [Green Balloon] operating in the period from 1905 to 1912 on Floriańska Street in Kraków in the Cukiernia Lwowska [Lviv Confectionery] opened by Jan Apolinary Michalik and hence called Jama Michalika [Michalik’s Den].
The Nativity scene, which, over time, started to adopt the form of a theatrical show, was accompanied by dialogues and singing. It was expanded by proscenium. People hidden under its floor animated the dolls, which bowed their heads to the Infant Jesus. The use of this quasi-theatrical formula during the holiday celebration was supposed to enrich the message, which, from the form of simply reading the text of the Holy Bible — most often during the liturgy — was transformed into presenting the events from the life of Christ before the audience of his followers. However, the Christmas pageant gradually started to laicize: there were more people taking part in the drama, and many scenes of secular nature were introduced. On the basis of the religious content, entertaining episodes (comedy).
The tradition of Polish Christmas nativity scenes has its roots in Italian nativity plays, which were brought to our land by the Franciscan Order. Initially, they were organised in the side altars of churches, and comprised figures of Baby Jesus, Mary, Saint Joseph, the shepherds and the Three Kings...
In the 19th century and up to the mid-20th century, Kraków was a major centre of the folk toy industry. This was because during winter (when bricklaying ceased), the masons of the suburbs of Kraków: Zwierzyniec, Krowodrza, Czarna Wieś, Ludwinów and Podgórze (which was a separate town until 1915) could earn extra money by building and selling cribs, as well as going carolling with puppet nativity scenes. They were also engaged in the production of popular toys to be later sold during annual spring fairs.