THE AWAKENING! New Year Starts in March


Why is New Year's Day in January while Easter is in spring? Do we associate spring only with joyful time brimming with life? What practices were used to make sure that spring would come?

The exhibition at the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków is an attempt to answer the above questions by presenting customs and practices of various cultures related to the period of transition from winter to the spring awakening. We look at the overlapping and intertwining of diverse traditions - from ancient Babylon to contemporary Poland, from pagan religions to monotheistic ones. We show the universality of some structures, how similar themes crop up in different cultures and the common foundations. In this context, we examine the cultural understanding of time, we look for symbols of spring, fertility and life, we demonstrate the practices used to scare away winter and combat evil, but we also mention the problems connected with the season: hunger when food supplies have ended and hard toil in the fields.

Nowadays, we mainly experience psychological effects of a prolonged winter. We keep telling ourselves: if only it were spring! We miss the sun, the light and the warmth. And we cope in various ways: from travelling to warm countries to resorting to pills. We even change the time from winter to summer. However, we are convinced that spring will come without our help. But will it?

The need to mark the symbolic transition from the metaphoric time of slumber and darkness to the spring awakening - understood as a time of rebirth, fertility and celebration of life - is expressed on many levels: from the drowning of the symbolic Marzanna through changing clothes (by swapping warm clothes for lighter ones) to various rituals and practices of a symbolic nature related to the religious, agricultural or secular calendar.

The exhibition takes us through different cultures and traditions, both past and present, showing how they all draw from the same sources. The main characters are objects which tell individual stories about spring, show its symbols, signs and incarnations. We draw upon the MEK collection which carved storks fly out of (not only carved ones) to the clatter of wooden ratchets and ceramic rattles. Photographs and paintings depict the time of the hunger gap as well as hard field work and winter rituals practiced in the past. And Matka Boska Roztworna (The Parting Holy Mother) is responsible for the spring parting of the earth which has been dormant in winter. Her sculpture, together with other representations of the Virgin Mary surrounded by flowers, plants and animals, brings to mind the cult of Mother Earth and it indicates a more profound intertwining not only of different cultures, but also of the human and non-human world in the cyclic awakening of nature in the spring.

Curators: Monika Bielak, Jacek Kukuczka, Justyna Matwijewicz, Ewa Rossal PhD 
Exhibition design and visual identification: Monika Bielak   
Content-related consultations and collection query: Leonia Brzozowska, Monika Dudek,  
prof. UJ Monika Golonka-Czajkowska (JU Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology), Grzegorz Graff, Mateusz Król PhD, Iwona Matuła, Beata Skoczeń-Marchewka, Anna Sulich, Kamila Wasilewska-Prędki, Anna Woźny-Tondyra  
Texts by: Jacek Kukuczka, Justyna Matwijewicz, Ewa Rossal PhD  
Edited and proofread by: Anna Kowalczyk   
Translated by: Klara Laudańska, Anna Sak  
Conservation care: Agata Barczyńska, Katarzyna Mazurek-Lebowska, Renata Palka, Katarzyna Wilaszek-Rozwadowska 
Restorers’ assistance: Iwona Matuła, Krzysztof Wójtowicz  
Production of the exhibition: Grzegorz Kurek, Tomasz Ostafin, Paweł Przybylski  
Technical consultations: Adrian Tomasik, Jacek Szymański   
Educational programme: Mirosław Bury, Anna Koblak, Urszula Sobczyk, Agata Ziomek   
Stork model by: Mirosław Bury   
Digitising archive materials: Mateusz Król PhD, Andrzej Sułkowski   
Photos by: Marcin Jędrysiak, Jacek Kukuczka, Anna Tarko, Marcin Wąsik  
Promotion: Piotr Bujakiewicz, Joanna Grabeus, Olga Łuczyńska-Gawron   
Accessibility Coordinator: Anna Szelingowska