Christmas cribs spread around Rokiškis Manor – a unique tradition that continues

  • 2023-12-11

As Christmas approaches, an exhibition of newly created Christmas cribs has opened in the central palace of Rokiskis (Rokiškis) Manor. A permanent exhibition awaits visitors in the barn on the estate territory, while the illuminated windows of the outbuildings have brought to life the Christmas crib that had been waiting quietly in the museum's vaults for this miraculous moment. 

For the first time, visitors to the park will be greeted by a giant Christmas crib with characters as tall as a man.

The oldest Christmas crib dates back to the 19th century

Such exhibitions are a unique tradition in Rokiskis that has been going on for 25 years. Christmas is unimaginable without it. And for the idea, the people of Rokiškis must be grateful to Angelo Frosio, an Italian businessman and patron of the arts. The concept caught on and made Rokiškis famous and helped to amass an impressive collection of Christmas cribs, which now includes over 150 exhibits. Many of them were created by famous Lithuanian wood craftsmen. Giedre Spundzeviciene, a museum curator of Christmas cribs exhibitions, points out one of the rarest exhibits in the collection, a Christmas crib from the 19th century, which was donated to the Rokiškis Museum by Adolfas Teresius. The wooden, miniature Christmas crib of small figures is housed in a bottle. It is thought to have been created by a recruit or prisoner deported to Siberia.

Of course, the Rokiškis Regional Museum is also proud of the large Christmas crib, for which the sculptures of human-sized figures were made from oak by well-known carvers in Lithuania who have won various folk art awards, winners of exhibitions and prizes, and those who have participated in plein-air workshops not only in Lithuania but also in foreign countries: Saulius Lampickas, Adolfas Teresius, Rimantas Zinkevicius, Arturas Janickas, Gintaras Varnas, Eduardas Titas and the curator of the plein-air workshop Kęstutis Krasauskas.

According to G. Spundzeviciene, the Christmas cribs collected in the museum are now so famous that they are borrowed by other Lithuanian towns, churches and parishes in the run-up to the Christmas season, and the museum's staff jokes that Rokiškis is becoming the capital of Christmas cribs.

Various materials have been used in the creation of the Christmas crib

This year, the 18th National Competition Exhibition opened at the Rokiskis Manor and displays 56 Christmas cribs from all over Lithuania, created by experienced craftsmen and gymnasium students. The Christmas cribs were submitted by 16 new authors, and others participating in these exhibitions for the first time.

Visitors will see Christmas cribs made of wood and ceramic elk antlers, molded from modelling clay, knotted from hay, and felted from wool.

A Christmas crib made of millennium oak will be housed separately

However, most of the artworks are created by woodworkers. Their works show a variety of carving styles and shapes. 

Rimantas Zinkevicius, a renowned wood craftsman and participant in many Christmas crib exhibitions from Ukmerge District, created the artwork from a 5600-year-old black oak tree soaking in the Sventoji River. 

According to G. Spundzeviciene, this Christmas crib will not be placed indoors next to the others but outside by the central entrance. "The author has warned that the structure of the millennium oak means that the Christmas crib cannot be kept in the heat. Therefore, we have found a special place for the artwork outside," says the curator about the unique exhibit.

Among the works on display, visitors will also see an altar Christmas crib decorated with Baroque carvings and hiding the secret of the mirror, a birch-bark Christmas crib, and many others varying in size, shape and color. 

The miniature Christmas crib is made of elk antlers

The exhibition also includes ten ceramic Christmas cribs. The colorful artwork of Raimondas Salasevicius from Sirvintos district, who is participating for the first time, stands out for its massive figures and expressive faces. The figures molded by the students of classes 1-4 of the Jurgitele Crafts Studio are also impressive for their sincerity. Among the ceramic artworks, there is also a collective work of the adult group of the Pandelys Multifunctional Centre. 

However, it was not limited to wood and ceramics. Unconventional materials were also used in the creation of the Christmas crib. Robertas Zaliukas from the region brought a miniature Christmas crib made of elk horn, an artwork figure made of modelling clay from Birzai, and one made of hay and wool from Marijampole.

The authors of the best artworks will be awarded

The Christmas cribs displayed at the exhibition will be open until 20 January. On that day, the authors of the Christmas cribs will gather in Rokiskis, and prizes will be awarded to the participants and winners of the competition.

The 1st prize winner will receive €500, the 2nd prize €400 and the 3rd prize €300.

Visitors can also decide on one prize - the People's Choice Award – by voting for the author of the artwork they like best.

At the end of the exhibition, the Collections Committee of the Rokiskis Regional Museum will select the Christmas crib that will be added to the famous Christmas crib collection. 

The Lithuanian Council for Culture and Rokiškis District Municipality supports the exhibition.