Polish Nativity scenes join reggae, khon dance on UNESCO lists

Elaborate Krakovian cribs have been produced since 19th century

Photo: Rafa Korzeniowski via La Croix International
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Traditional Polish Nativity scenes have been added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list, marking the country’s first appearance on the prestigious list.

The decision was made at a meeting in Mauritius on Nov. 29 attended by delegates from over 125 countries, Poland’s The First News reports.

Depictions of Christ’s birth flanked by key landmarks in Krakow are known as Krakovian “szopkas” (pronounced “shopka”).

Since the 19th century, the creators of these works have gathered in the city’s main square to have experts evaluate them.

The artists often interweave historical or contemporary social events into the scenes, using mobile figures moved by various mechanisms to bring them to life and illuminating them using a range of effects.

“The Nativity scene [szopka] tradition in Krakow is a social practice originating from Christmas celebration customs, centered around constructing cribs,” said UNESCO, the world body’s cultural and scientific agency.

“Born in the 19th century, the tradition is indissolubly connected to the city of Krakow and based on skills and knowledge passed down for generations,” it added.

UNESCO has also in recent weeks added reggae, which originated in Jamaica, to its global cultural heritage list, and inscribed Thailand’s khon masked dance drama on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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