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.
Carolling is more than just, as is commonly believed today, singing songs about Christmas. It is a ceremonial exchange of New Year’s greetings having a ancient, often pre-Christian tradition. Carollers are boys or young men who wander around during the Christmas season, which is usually from the second day of Christmas, St. Stephen’s Day (26th of December) to the Epiphany (6th of January), and sometimes even to Candlemas (2nd of February). They wander from one house to another, sing carols and enact scenes using a variety of costumes and carollers’ decorations (a star, a nativity scene), as well as exchanging New Year’s greetings.
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).
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.
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).