Advent at Mazovia was announced with ligawka instrument already in the 11th century. This custom became widespread and it survived until the Second World War. During this war Germany banned the ownership of ligawka and playing on them because they feared that guerrillas will communicate with the use of ligawka. In Siedlce, the first Advent Playing (Adwentowe Granie), a ligawka competition took place over 20 years ago.
Ligawa belongs to aerophones, a family of wind instruments. This group contains also bagpipes and leaves with which children play making sounds. It is the second oldest group of musical instruments which developed from whistles produced originally from animal bones. The biggest ligawas are around 3 metres long. They are not long-lasting instruments. Branches hollow inside, even if they are firmly attached to the metal rim, get dry relatively fast. When they get dry, cracks appear and the instrument resonates less and less. Ligawas have their equivalents: in the Podhale region there are trombitas and in the Kaszuby region there are bazunas.
Ligawkas were signalling instruments. Shepherds used them for producing signals for their cattle and warnings against wild animals. They also had a ritual function. They were used for signalling Advent. According to Oskar Kolberg, there were a symbol of the trumpet of the Archangel proclaiming the Saviour’s coming to the world.
During Advent, the same melody is played on ligawka to the four corners of the world. “Ligawka, the Mazovia shepherds’ flute – is a trumpet, two or three cubits long, commonly bent in an arch, made of wood with the use of a hatchet, usually composed of two halves for easier making of the groove inside. At close distance its hoarse sound terribly offends our ears, but its tone becomes full, smooth and gloomy at a distance. The hoarseness disappears in the space”, Oskar Kolberg described music made on ligawka.
Ligawa is a very demanding instrument. Usually men play the ligawa. The most successful musicians are those with strong lungs, who play in brass orchestras on a daily basis. However, sometimes ladies also play the ligawa. One of the Advent Music participants said that she started to play ligawa only when her grandfather died. She wanted to commemorate her grandfather by participating in the competition and now it is a custom. She is one of only few women participating in the competition.
Playing ligawka constitutes an example of a situation when representatives of various generation groups participate in cultivating a living tradition. Every year the competition attracts around 40 ligawka players from the southern Podlasie and eastern Mazovia. They compete in four age categories: children from 8 to 11 years old, adolescents up to 16 years and the remaining group. The oldest participants are over 80 years old. The competition lasts one day. Usually it starts before the noon and lasts for about two hours. Both the competition concert and the sale of ligawkas take place next to Floriańska Street and the announcement of winners and presentation of awards take place inside the Museum.