Twelfth Night Tales, 10: Szopka from Krakow, Poland

This glittering souvenir, called, I have recently discovered, a ‘Szopka’, was brought back from Krakow in Poland by my partner when he visited the city for a theatre festival in the early 1990s. It was early summer but just as at the Zammagurie midsummer festival, Christmas ornaments were on sale in the market there too.

They’re a Krakow speciality, a variation on the nativity scene, but instead of a stable, the holy family’s shelters are often modelled on the city’s own historic buildings. They were made originally in the 19thC by craftsmen such as masons, to generate some additional income in the winter months when their outdoor work was on hold due to inclement weather. Some of these Szopka are immense – four feet or so in height, and are paraded around the city as part of a competition (there’s further information here), but this one is just 6 inches tall, made of cardboard wrapped in thin, coloured foil and must have taken far longer to make than the reasonable price that was paid! It’s another ‘character’ in the mantelpiece micro-pageant.


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