Building of portable puppet show, with Holy Family located on the first floor of Marquette with many towers and turrets and containing elements specific for old Kraków's architecture was quite popular hobby before the First World War. This custom abandoned in the 1920s and 1930s until 1937, when people keen on Kraków's tradition organized First Kraków's cribs contest. Since then, excluding short break during Second World War, the custom lasted until today and it keeps growing.
Every year on first Thursday of December before noon around Adam Mickiewicz monument in the Main Square crib makers are gathering to show their newest crafts. Crowd of Kraków citizens, families, tourists and TV camera operators' teams surrounds them.
Museum (which organizes contest since 1945) employees are registering applications. Each crib has got unique own registration number.
All cribs are quite picturesque. For many years, number of applications is quite stable - between 120 and 160, where most of applications are crafts made by children and teenagers.
At the midday, when a bugle call is played at St. Mary's church's tower, crib makers are taking their crafts to Museum at Krzysztofory Palace, where Jury of the contest is located. Jury is being lead by Museum's Director and it employs ethnologists, art historians, artists, employees of Historical and Ethnographical Museums.
The Kraków Nativity Scenes contest is open, it can be applied to by anyone disregard the age or place of living. Each contestant can apply with maximum of three cribs. Jury is evaluating them anonymously, and authors are revealed only after prizes and commends announcement.
Before jury would focus on detailed evaluation of particular cribs, they need to decide if all cribs are fulfilling the contest criteria. If the crib is not fulfilling them to be recognized as Kraków's crib, it cannot take part in the contest even if it is the most beautiful crib ever seen.
Cribs qualified to contest are being evaluated in three categories accordingly to age of their authors.
1. Senior artisans cribs: above 18 years old
2. Youth's cribs
3. Kids' cribs: up to 14 years old
During work, Jury is classifying cribs accordingly to four size categories:
1. big (above 120 cm)
2. medium (70 to 120cm)
3. small (15 to 70 cm)
4. miniatures (up to 15 cm)
Every qualified craft is evaluated accordingly to criteria set many years ago. Competing cribs gather points (1 to 5 scale) for: accordance to tradition, architectural design, colours, puppets, movable elements, fresh ideas, decorations and overall aesthetic value. Jury can also present for a prize crafts that are not fulfilling the above criteria, but being recognized as considering other, highly appreciated values.
Since the first contest, there is a custom, that winners are rewarded with cash. The city's president, City Council, cultural institutions, private companies, editors' board of known publications and private persons, has founded these prizes.
Currently main sponsors are government authorities, social societies, companies and personals, which are hard to be named particularly due to huge number of them. We cannot however omit the initiative of Magdalena Krychnalska and Krystyna Reinfuss-Janusz, daughters of Roman and Zofia Reinfuss, which have founded the prize of their mirthful parents' name.
Ceremonial announcement of contest results and diplomas giving is usually happening on Sunday after jury session, in Fontana's Room of the Krzysztofory Palace at 12:00. The Museum's director is inviting then everyone to visit contest exhibition, which takes place in temporary exhibitions rooms, on the Palace ground floor.
The exhibition takes place from second week of December until the mid of February next year. Due to its popularity, it is open every day. During exposition it is visited by thousands of people.
Every year the Museum is purchasing few Cribs for its own collection.