The tradition of Christmas Puppet Theater, known as Vertep has been popular in Ukraine since around the year 1700. The word Vertep is rooted in the old Slavonik word for “cave.” Which is of course a reference to the place of Jesus’ birth.
The box which is used for the Vertep is known as a Shopka from the Polish word for box. This box is taken from home to home in the village or town for a series of performances of the Vertep. There are usually two segments to the Vertep: first, the enactment of the Christmas story accompanied by carols; second, a secular often comedic story based on local history or culture. Because of this the shopka often has two levels, the upper level for the sacred story and the lower level for the secular story.
This Ukrainian nativity is inspired by the Vertep tradition with its puppet-like figures that are housed in a decoratively painted wooden box which functions both for storage and when assembled as the stable for the Nativity.
The finely detailed figures are hand made using different natural materials that are molded, baked, sanded, glazed, dressed and finally painted.
Joseph measures a little more than 5 inches tall. The box measures 8.5 x 8.5 x 5 inches when closed.
This nativity was certified “environmentally responsible” by the certification of Ukrainian public organization “Living Planet.”