Polish Traditions: The Legend of the Lajkonik

You can see the Lajkonik all over the city, it is on the fabric used to cover some bus and tram seats, its on many brochures, used in logos, it is a true symbol of Krakow.  The Lajkonik is a man on a hobby-horse, dressed in fanciful clothing, that is said to bring good luck, high-crop yields, and wealth to Krakowians, and those who come in contact with it.  The origins of this man are unknown, but are rumored to be from centuries ago, some say to celebrate the reppelling of a Tartar Mongolian invasion.

An illustration of the Lajkonik from a children’s book I wrote about Krakow

A lajkonik can often be seen any time there is a performance of folk-dance and song, but only once a year is the official festival held. This is the website for the official festival– you’ll need to have your browser translate it for you.

Every year, eight days after Corpus Christi (In 2023 that will be June 15th), Krakow holds the infamous Lajkonik Festival.

The Lajkonik begins his procession at the Kosciuszko Mound and then travels along a route, lasting around 5 hours, with stops along the way.  Krakowians dressed in traditional clothes accompany the Lajkonik, playing songs along the way and at each stop.  (The official route and times can be found listed around the city on posters, or just e-mail next year and I can tell you the official times).  The Lajkonik eventually makes it to the Main Market Square where he performs even more traditional songs and dance, and the mayor of Krakow makes a speech!!

This appearance is so popular that the Lajkonik has special body-guards to protect him from all the people trying to touch him!  This year I went to take pictures to put here, and I was pushed and shoved about, like we were all about to see Harry Styles!  After the stage-performance, the Lajkonik travels through the Main Square, stopping to dance with a lucky lady or two, take pictures with children, and collect coins from people wishing to gain some luck, and then continues on Grodzka Street to Wawel [note: I think now he ends on the main square instead].

For me, this was a really cool thing to see, especially because it is something that has been going on for so long, as can be seen in this picture from 1818, which shows a Lajkonik Festival:


Michał Stachowicz  Muzeum Historycznege Miasta Krakowa

As always, if you have any questions feel free to e-mail me at emilysguidetokrakow@yahoo.com

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