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Intangible cultural heritage

Traditions, knoweldge, craftsmanship techniques  
Photo: © UNESCO/James Muriuki

NATIVITY SCENE TRADITION IN WENNS
Social practices in Tyrol, inscribed 2022

Making and displaying nativity scenes is a tradition that has been associated with the village of Wenns for more than 150 years. From the "Wenner Kastenschneekrippe" [box snow nativity scene] to the "Wenner Kastenspiegelkrippe" [box mirror nativity scene] and the "Wenner Mooskrippenberg” [moss nativity scene mountains]—the "Wenner Krippeler" take care of their maintenance, further development, and set-up. The newly built nativity scenes are displayed in private homes and in public areas and are presented to visitors during the house-to-house nativity scene visits.

These visits and the creation of the box snow nativity scene, the box mirror nativity scene, and the moss nativity scene mountains are rooted in the historical development of the nativity scene in Europe over centuries, especially in the Alpine region. In Wenns, the nativity scenes as well as the rituals and customs associated with them are still of great importance for the population, especially for the members of the Christmas Nativity Scene Society. The practice of Wenns’ nativity scene tradition is based on three pillars: setting up the nativity scenes in public and private areas, going from house to house to visit the nativity scenes, and passing on the knowledge of the meaning surrounding the nativity scenes and the associated craftsmanship in courses and workshops. The nativity scene has a certain social function in Wenns: that of visiting one other. The visitors ask for admission by uttering the words, "May we please take a look at the nativity scene?”. The "Gloriawasser" [self-distilled fruit schnapps] is drunk at the end as a traditional ritual after the nativity scene visit. Following the extension of best wishes for the “new year" and a heartfelt “thank you for viewing the nativity scene", the visitors move on to the next house and the next nativity scene. Around 300 nativity scenes are set up in private homes in Wenns.

Public courses offered by the association aim to pass on the traditional handicraft skills concerning the construction of nativity scenes, particularly the box snow crib and box mirror crib which are characteristic for the village. However, ideas for new types of nativity scene and the development of further skills also result from exchange with other nativity scene friends. The newly built nativity scenes are presented to the public annually in pre-Christmas nativity scene exhibitions. In addition, the local associations have joint events with the "Wenner Krippelern", which strengthens social cohesion within the village. The association also makes sure that the number of people going on house-to-house nativity scene visits is regulated to prevent their owners from being overwhelmed. Furthermore, the association takes care of the management of courses and public relations and plans to organise a recurring nativity symposium in the future. Finally, the importance of the nativity scenes in Wenns is reflected in the multitude of artists from the village who are either involved or have been involved with them. Since 2010, about 40 nativity scenes and other special items have been on display in a permanent nativity scene exhibition at a small museum.

Contact

Gemeinde Wenns
Walter Schöpf
Unterdorf 9
6473 Wenns im Pitztal
gemeinde@wenns.gv.at
www.wenns.gv.at

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