One of the reasons why December in Krakow is not only a white boring month, is the Christmas Crib (pict. Jacek Kubiena).
The Christmas Cribs traditions started in the 14th century, when Franciscans settled in Poland.
In that time, Cribs consisted in scenes built in churches by monks, representing Jesus surrounded with shepherds, animals and the Three Wise Kings. The most ancient figurine are still kept in the Klaryski monastry and come from the 14th century.
At the beginning of the 17th century a new tradition called the "Misteria" appeared in Poland. It consisted in spectacles depicting the Nativity. First, only characters from the Bible were included, but later some historical characters and caricatures (pict. Henryk Hermanowicz) were introduced, like a Jew, a beggar, a Cossack, a witch, the Death...
These spectacles were played by the "kolędnicy" (disquised actors) carrying theatre-cribs from house to house. The kolędnicy were waiting on the Main market square for someone to pay for their spectacle. Then they were going to the houses in order to show the Crib they made and they were singing canticles. As the concurrency was harsh, the best way to attract attention was to build the nicest crib. Masons, who had almost no income during winter, were working on this cribs.
A typical Crib of Krakow (pict. Jacek Kubiena) is inspired by Krakow architecture and traditions. The most often represented monuments are Mariacki Basilica, Florianska gate, Zygmunt king chapel. Usually the author take fragments from different buildings and create enchanting work.
Sometimes the crib represents the Nativity and a story from Polish legends and traditions. Characters (pict. Jacek Kubiena) like Wanda and the dragon besides historical silhouettes of Piłsudski or Kościuszko.
One can say that Krakow cribs are like a summary of Krakow, history, tradition, past in harmony with present. Cribs dimension vary a lot, from the size of a matchbox to 2 or 3 meters high. Several months of work are often necessary.
Since 1937, a Crib contest(pict. Rafal Korzeniowski) take place the first thursday of december on the Main Market Square. The a lieu le premier jeudi du mois de décembre sur la grand-place. The first time (Agencja Fot. "Swiatowid") , the winner got a big sausage. Later the cribs are exposed until the 15th of february in the museum of history (number 35 on the Main Square).