Czechs love the nativity scene. You can find one at every Christmas fair and there are even special nativity scene museums. There are nativity scenes made from wood and those you can cut out of paper and then there are those really unusual ones and today’s post is all about them. By the way, the Czech word for the nativity scene is betlém.
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Loštice is a small town near Olomouc famous thanks to its tradition of making the smelly mature cheese called Olomoucké tvarůžky. And there’s another reason for the town’s fame – the wooden nativity scene by the Czech woodcarver Jaroslav Beneš. Why is it in our list of unconventional nativity scenes, you ask? Well, not only has the author been working on it since 1994 but it’s very speacial due to the fact that the figures represent famous people. There’s the Moravian painter Alfons Mucha, Brno composer Leoš Janáček, wrestler Gustav Frištenský or even the famous convict Jiří Kajínek and many more.
Pilsen Nativity Scene
The so called Great Pilsen Nativity Scene is known for the fact that everybody can bring their own figurine made from fabric wood or metal and add it to the scene. Currently, there are about 800 pieces. You can see this nativity scene in the Pilsen city hall.
Therapeutic Nativity Scene
The beautiful ceramic scene in the St. Wenceslas church in Prague has an unusual author. The church is in the psychiatric hospital in Prague-Bohnice and its authors are the pacients from the 90ies. The objective of this creation was therapy by art.
You can admire a truly original nativity scene in the Museum of Butter in Máslovice, a village near Prague. The name Máslovice actually means “butter village” so it’s only natural that the local scene is a very buttery one. Every year a new nativity scene is carved from aproximatelly 20 kilograms of butter and it can be seen in the museum from the beginning of advent until the end of January.
The Prague Church of Saint Anthony of Padua guards a real treasure. This wooden nativity scene from 1904 was carved by the academic sculptor Václav Cvekl and theauthor of the background is Karel Štapfer. The nativity scene is unique because all the human figures wear Slavic national clothes and the carving shows great details. Cvekl started “dressing” his figures in the clothes typical in the West-Bohemian ethnographic Chod region (Chodsko) and later added also other Slavic nations. As for the background, it represents the city of Domažlice and the nearby town Draženov with actual buildings of the town.
Digital Nativity Scene
In Prague-Voděrádky you can see a betlém that is carved from wood and brought to life by modern technologies. You can watch a part of the display here:
The Central Bohemian village of Čenkov near Hořovice becomes a tourist attraction every Christmas. Not for beautiful nature or good food but for the unusual life-size nativity scene of 53 human and animal figures made completely from hay. You can fins the scene at the village chapel.
The Sweetest Smelling Scene
The Roman Catholic Church of St. Matthew in Prague-Dejvice is the home to the sweetest smelling nativity scene ever. And we’re serious, the scene is made from gingerbread! The original objective was humble when the local priest received several gingerbread figurines from a grateful parishioner and decided to put them on exposition. At the time of its biggest fame the nativity scene had around 300 figures made by the academic painter Helena Horálková. Nowadays the figures are the work of her aprentice Daniel Zítka and there are about 250 figures.
Another gingerbread scene can be seen in the Muzeum of the town Hořice. The woodcarver and gingerbread master Aleš Vostřez made this scene based on the drawings of Karel Svolinský. The figures in this nativity scene are very unique because they aren’t static as most other scenes. Many of them walk, run and play music which makes this scene look very life-like.
There’s even a mechanical nativity scene! It’s in the Moravian town Horní Lideč and it contains 75 mechanized pieces showing traditional crafts. Another important part are the carvings of significant places of the are, for example the castle Buchlov. The whole scene takes up the area of 170 m2 and can be seen in tne town hall of Horní Lideč
Stuffed Nativity Scene
The town of Bohunín hosts a nativity scene that is a little bizzare but why not we say! The classic figures were replaced by stuffed animals. The scene can be seen in the salon Maryška and it was the idea of the members of the Maryška society who wanted to bring the nativity scene closed to children.
Nothing but Sugar
A nativity scene made completely from sugar can be seen in the Nativity Scene Museum (Muzeum betlémů) in Karlštejn.
It’s all about Bread
Nativity scenes made from bread are actually quite a common thing, you can see them every year. Probably the most impressive one made from bread crust and on exposition in the Museum of South Bohemia. It had more than 558 figures.
Some towns organize live Nativity Scenes. The one in Rajhrad can be watched every ear and we have an article with video included about the Nativity Scene in Rajhrad.
Unusual Nativity Scene Exposition
Every year, the Museum of Czech Christmas organizes an exposition of approximately 50 Nativity Scenes (every year different scenes) in the village of Ořech near Prague. Not only can you see Nativity scene miniatures, mechanical scenes or ceramic ones but you can also participate in workshops such as making a Nativity scene from the exposition visitors or performing the long forgotten Christmas customs.
Illustrated Nativity Scene
The village of Kryštofovo údolí hosts a very original nativity scene painted by the Czech academic painter and illustrator Josef Jíra. It’s illuminated from 4 to 10 pm and usually stays open until January 6.
Nativity Scene in Rocks
If you follow the trail Půjdem spolu do Betléma (Let’s go together to Bethlehem, the Czech word for Nativity scene is the same like the name of the city in Israel – Betlém) near Kuks in the Trutnov district, you’ll reach the scene carved in rocks by Matyáš Bernard Braun at the order of count František Antonín Špork in 1725.
Magic on the Hill
Chotovice is a Bohemian village not far from Litomyšl. And in this village, up on the hill next to the church, there’s a house whose owner prepares magical show for all the villagers and everyone who passes by. Nativity scene and other decoration is installed around the house and at night, everything is illuminated by thousands of tiny light.
Kovozoo (“metal zoo”) is an area near Uherské Hradiště in Moravian Slovakia with a large exposition of animals made from scrap metal. In 2023, the zoo paired some of these animals with some figures from the scene carved in wood and introduced a Nativity scene made from wood and metal.
Discover more about the Czech Christmas right here!