Slovak Nativity puppet play. Nativity puppet plays derived from the Slovak popular theatre based on Middle European folk traditions. Generally called “Bethlehem plays”, they appeared in Slovak popular (folk) theatre during the Middle Ages. They are performed in the region of Orava, in a single-level portable puppet stage that can be disassembled, and whose sides (mansions) accommodate the characters bearing offerings. They also exist in the Spišská Magura region, notably in Lechnica, where they use two rod puppets (shepherds) manipulated from below.

A village named Lendak is where the play is called džafkuline, no doubt a name of Gypsy origin, which is also the word that begins the final song of the play. The Gypsy is one of the fixed characters in the Nativity of Lendak. Džafkuline is traditionally performed by groups of young people during the Christmas season in Lendak. Two puppeteers, dressed in elaborately decorated traditional Slovak costumes, manipulate (fifteen) wooden rod puppets (an angel, three shepherds, the Three Wise Men, Herod, Death, the Devil, the farmer and his wife, the Gypsy, Jasek and his dog) in the small theatre resembling the façade of a miniaturized church. The theatre is supported on either side by two assistants dressed in white costumes characteristic of Slovak popular theatre.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Michal Gontkovský (of Lendak) still sculpted puppets and created scenery (the church-crèche) for these traditional plays, but the tradition slowly disappears. A complete set of these figures is preserved at the Slovak National Museum – Museum of Puppetry Cultures and Toys in Modrý Kameň, South Slovakia.

(See Slovakia.)


  • Slivka, Martin, and Oľga Slivková. Vianočné hry v Spišskej Magure [Nativity Plays of Spišská Magura]. Bratislava: TÁLIA-PRESS, 1994, pp. 36, 37, 227.
  • Slivka, Martin. Slovenské ľudové divadlo [Slovak Folk Theatre]. Vol. 1. Bratislava: VŠMU, 1992.
  • Žatko, Rudolf. Postavy Slovákov v poľských a bieloruských hrách vianočných [Characters of Slovaks in Polish and Belarusian Nativity Plays]. Slovenský národopis [Slovak Ethnography]. No. 1. Bratislava: Slovenská akadémia vied, 1962, pp. 63-70.