New additions to the register of intangible cultural heritage

Ljubljana – The Slovenian register of intangible cultural heritage has been expanded with three new entries: the traditional building of nativity scenes, the traditional Slovenian festive pastry – potica, and the health profession and practice of midwifery.

The nativity scene is a popular Christian tradition, a display of art objects that represent the birth of Jesus, usually exhibited around Christmas time in different forms, with figures representing characters from the nativity story.

Nativity scenes have a long tradition in Slovenia, but they were revived particularly in the 1990s, says the website of the Culture Ministry.

In 1990, the first live nativity scene was staged in the Postojna Cave, while a life-size nativity scene was built on Šmarna Gora near Ljubljana in 1991. The first documented nativity scene in Slovenia was displayed in 1641 in a church in Gornji Grad.

The second addition, Slovenian potica, is a traditional Slovenian festive pastry made of rolled leavened paper-thin dough and filled with any of a great variety of fillings.

The characteristic potica is round with a hole in the middle, and made with a filling of walnut or tarragon. There are also variants with quark, hazelnut, pumpkin seed, poppy seed, and even salted ones with cracklings or bacon.

Potica is commonly regarded as the most recognised pastry in Slovenia. It is thought to have originated as a ceremonial type of bread that was made in the country as early as the Middle Ages. The first to mention potica was Slovenian priest Primož Trubar in 1575.

The third addition to the register, midwifery, covers the specific knowledge and skills of childbirth support. Traditionally, midwifery was an exclusively female activity, and midwives have held a special status within the community.

As it became more professionalised, a midwifery school was founded in Ljubljana in 1753, and the first maternity hospital in Slovenia was established in 1789. Today, there is also a special midwifery course available at the Faculty of Medicine in Ljubljana.