Regional traditions

Szopka krakowska








 
   Lajkonik, the famous Kraków hero on a hobby horse – is one of the most recognisable symbols of Małopolska. Its popularity is partly due to the annual march from the district of Zwierzyniec to the Market Square, which takes place eight days after Corpus Christi. A red-legged bearded man holding a mace rides a colourful horse down the main streets of the city. Everyone who gives him money receives a pat on the head, which is believed to bring luck for the whole year. Even though nowadays Lajkonik is seen as a funny character in disguise, the origins of the tradition date back to the Tatar invasions, which in the 13th century reached as far as Kraków. 

     Hejnał mariacki (also known as the Heynal) is another beautiful and still cultivated tradition, which has its origins in the Tatar invasions. Every hour in the highest tower of St. Mary’s Church (Kościół Mariacki) in Kraków, a fireman plays on a trumpet the characteristic melody in all four directions, with the last tune invariably interrupted. Legend has it that when the Tatar warriors were approaching the city, they were only spotted by one bugler-fireman. He blew his trumpet, but he never managed to finish the melody, as he died pierced with a Tatar arrow…

     Lace from Bobowa - Lace - making is one of the most beautiful handicraft traditions of Małopolska. For some years now, Bobowa has specialised in the difficult process of the production of bobbin lace, which is more subtle and prettier than the more commonly manufactured crochet lace. The artistry and ingenuity of the local lacemakers is so impressive that people come to Bobowa to take part in lace-making workshops. The town also organises the annual Lace Festival in Bobowa.

     Kraków nativity cribs - Kraków is famous for its extraordinary tradition of building nativity cribs (the so called szopki krakowskie). The tradition dates back to the late 19th century and was started by the brick-layers from the suburbs of Kraków, who in the wintertime had to look for alternative jobs. Since the 1930s, the city has organised an annual competition of nativity cribs on the first Thursday of December. The event is held under the patronage of the Historical Museum of Kraków. On a foggy morning, the participants bring their works to the monument of Adam Mickiewicz in the Main Square. All cribs need to contain elements of Kraków's historic architecture. They are later on exhibition at the Historical Museum. 

     The contest for the most beautifully painted cottage is organised each year in Zalipie on the first Sunday after Corpus Christi. It is therefore worth visiting this little village near Dąbrowa Tarnowska on that particular day. Zalipie is known for its over one-hundred-year-old tradition of decorating houses with colourful flower patterns against white background. The murals cover the walls of houses, outbuildings (even wells and kennels!), as well as the interiors of rooms, domestic appliances and furniture. The women of Zalipie also craft embroidered costumes, bedcovers, tablecloths and many other decorations. Thanks to the above-mentioned contest, it is possible to keep up the old tradition not only in Zalipie, but also in the neighbouring villages. 

     Redyk, a festive march of shepherds and their flocks of sheep – sets out in the spring from the villages of Podhale towards the distant mountain pastures. As winter was coming to an end and the grazing lands were turning green, senior shepherds (known as bacowie) together with their helpers (called juhasi) would gather all the sheep and set out towards these mountain pastures. In keeping with the Carpathian tradition, the grazing period began on the day of St. Adalbert (23 April) and continued until St. Michael’s Day (29 June). The most important march had its beginning in the sanctuary of “Gaździna Podhala” in Ludźmierz, where the official blessing of the shepherds and the flocks took place. Nowadays, every year on 23 April the sanctuary organises the Feast of the Senior Shepherds (“Święto Bacowskie”). Another famous redyk takes place in Jaworki, near Szczawnica. Rather unusually, the march is organised only in July. It is accompanied by a number of artistic events, competitions and food tastings. The Oscypek Cheese Trail also refers to the tradition of grazing sheep on mountain pastures and of producing various milk-based foods. This trail connects 31 shepherd’s huts, where the oscypek (sheep’s cheese), as well as other ewe’s milk delicacies – such as bryndza, bundz, the żentyca whey and redykołki cheeses – are manufactured on a regular basis. Food products made from ewe’s milk can be bought directly from the baca in a shelter on top of a mountain pasture, which can be found easily if one is following the Oscypek Cheese Trail. 

    The trail leads through a number of shepherd’s huts in the Tatras, including those in Kuźnice, Kalatówki, Droga pod Reglami in Zakopane, in the Chochołowska and Kościeliska valleys, as well as on the Rusinowa Glade. More of them can be found in Podhale: Bustryk, Baligówka, Leśnica, Gliczarów Górny, Biały Dunajec, Nowy Targ (near the airport), Ratułów, Murzasichle, Brzegi and Białka Tatrzańska, near Kotelnica; in Gorce: on the Long Pasture by Turbacz, in Zorymbek Wyżny, Kowaniec, as well as in Konin (north of Gorce); in Pieniny: Czorsztyn and Jaworki; in Spisz: Dursztyn, Łapsze Wyżne and Niżne; in Orawa: Zubrzyca Górna by Babia Góra; and in Beskid Sądecki (Wierchomla).

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