Saturday, November 25, 2006

What's a putz?

A putz, pronounced with a long 'u' like pootz (not to be confused with the Yiddish word for idiot - "putz"), is a miniature of the nativity scene. Traditionally the Moravian "putz" (from the German word putzen, meaning, "to decorate") is a highly personal display, not confined by time or geography. The essence of the putz tradition is found in the way in which each putz is built to tell the Christmas story. Figures and many other items, pine cones, pieces of drift wood, stones, houses and animals, are collected over the years by the whole family and may include a replica of their home. Moravian parents will use the putz as a visual aid to review the Christmas story with the children, to see and hear the age-old story.

The Central Moravian Church has the best putz in the area. The practice of putz building is uniquely Moravian. Bethlehem's first settlers brought their putz figures with them in the 18th century. In Victorian days a century ago, it was the custom in Bethlehem for Moravian to "go putzing" during the week between Christmas Eve and New Year's. Families would visit each others' homes, view their respective putzes and enjoy refreshments. Each year, the putz has its beginning on a moss-gathering Sunday in early November. Members of the congregation travel to the Pocono Mountains to gather the moss which forms the base of the putz. Construction, later in November, takes about week. Entire families participate, and while the age-old story remains the same, the placement of the scenes varies from year to year.

Across from the putz is a Star & Candle Shoppe selling traditional Moravian goods like Moravian Stars, beeswax candles and Lovefeast coffee.

When: Friday, Nov. 24 - Saturday, Dec. 23, 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Thursday - Saturday, 1 p.m. - 8 p.m. Sunday; Daily, December 26-30, 1 p.m. - 8:00 p.m., December 31 1 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.

Where: Christian Education Building, 40 W. Church St., Bethlehem

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