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The Lajkonik March

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An entertaining passer-by dressed as (ahem) a Tatar, with a wooden horse secured round his waist, romps all the way down the street while cheekily cracking everyone with a wooden mace. Not only that, he collects donations in his purse, and every now and then has a seriously boozy break. Yup, “Lajkonikowanie” (horseplay) has its own rules.

The Lajkonik March traditionally falls on the first Thursday after the Corpus Christi holiday – and this year it will be 30 June, when everything begins at courtyard of the Convent of the Norbertine Sisters. It will host a ceremonial dance with a banner, carried out in the presence of the abbess, as well as the local parish priest. At noon the procession, which includes the włóczkowie (the old Vistula rafters from Zwierzyniec near Kraków), and a band of mlaskoty (the Lajkonik’s musicians), moves along Kościuszko Street towards the Main Market Square. On the way Lajkonik strikes left and right with the baton (according to tradition bringing good luck), visits passing shops, collects donations, and often stops to rest in inns along the way. At 7pm, when the procession reaches the Main Market Square, the culmination of the rite takes place: the Lajkonik receives a tribute from the city fathers in a moneybag, tilts a cup of wine, and performs a dance with a banner called urbem salutare – an obeisance to the city.
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