My first visit to Poland was in early December several years ago. My Ciocia (aunt), with whom we were staying in Krakow, sent us to walk to the old center of town. My sister and I were not quite sure what my Ciocia had in mind for us to see, but we obediently dressed warm and walked to the Rynek (Main Market Square). On this day, all people brought their Szopki (nativity scenes) for display, for competition and for a grand parade around the market place.
Winner of Szopka competition 2010 in the category of large szopkas, built by Marek Markowski and his family. Click the picture to see it magnified.
We could not believe the detailed Nativity scenes - some framed in what appeared to be shoe boxes and others so large that 4 men were struggling to carry the glass-covered work! Some Szopki belonged to adults of all ages, and some belonged to children, who were especially happy to turn around and pose for us to take a picture.
I had admired the colorful foil paper of the Szopki on my Busia's shelf, here in Milwaukee WI, but only thought of them as a souvenir. Until I saw the parade in Krakow, I did not realize the significance and pride that the people place in creating their works of faith, and perhaps with more love than decorating a Christmas tree.