The magic of Krakow does not end on Christmas Eve. Actually the celebration is just beginning! The majority of Poles still observe Christmas for the full twelve days. The celebration begins on December 24th and continues through Epiphany, which is January 6th.
Christmas Day in Krakow must be spent visiting the Christmas Fair. Amidst horse drawn carriages, Christmas trees, twinkling lights, and stages bedecked with Polish singers and dancers, is a square permeated with delicious scents. Mulled wine, sausages, soups, sweet treats and pierogies (polish dumplings) are served in abundance. Wooden stalls are filled to the brim with rustic and glass ornaments, handmade knitwear, traditional pottery, toys, and wooden housewares.
Cloth Hall, which might be the first shopping mall ever, is likely to be open too. This UNESCO World Heritage Site which dates back to the Renaissance, is full of quality amber jewelry, beautiful icons and other items to purchase.
A visit to St. Mary’s Basilica which is adjacent to Main Square should not be missed. It is free to those who enter to pray or to attend mass. Tours are not offered on Holy Days.
St. Mary’s is second in importance in Krakow, only to Wawel Cathedral. It is from her watchtower that Krakow’s trumpeter sounded the alarm at the invasion of the Tarters during the Middle Ages. During that invasion, the trumpeter was unable to finish the call as he had been shot in the throat by a Tarter’s arrow, causing him to give up his life. Still to this day the trumpet call is made from the watchtower on the hour throughout each day. To honor the faithful, fallen trumpeter, the call ends at the exact moment the trumpeter of Krakow stopped playing, all those centuries ago.
I swear on my honor as a Pole, as a servant of the King of the Polish people, that I will faithfully and unto the death, if there be need, sound upon the trumpet the Heynal in honor of Our Lady each hour in the tower of the church which bears her name. -Oath of the Trumpeter of Krakow
Krakow loves Christmas. It is customary during this holy season to visit different churches throughout the city to pray before the beautiful nativities on display inside. Mini-pilgrimages may be made in this way to honor the long awaited Christ Child. As you make your way to the next church keep your eyes out for the many szkopas scattered about the city in shop windows, museums, restaurants and along the street. These whimsical folk art nativities use Krakow’s historical buildings as their backdrop. Krakow’s szkopas brighten the season and heighten the charm of this endearing City of Saints.
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