Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Moravian "Putz"

I learned a new word this past Xmas season: "PUTZ". It comes from a group of early German immigrants called Moravians who gave us many Christmas traditions. The term referred originally to a nativity scene placed near the Christmas tree- or, what the Germans called a Tannenbaum. It included figures of the magi, shepherds, the three Kings, and stable animals like donkeys, sheep, and the exotic camel. Later, the Putz evolved into other types of seasonal, winter scenes with houses, light poles, fences, and little figures of people and pets. My mother used to place a large piece of matted cotton on the floor which represented snow and then placed a round mirror on the "snow" for an ice-covered pond. There is more history to this story in the magazine, "Carolina Country", December, 2007, page 13. The article included a picture of the miniature village scene shown here in the accompanying collage- the right bottom corner (click on image to enlarge). The other image is of a stable my father made from the thin boards of a packing crate for produce- apparently Blue Flag grapes. They use cardboard boxes to ship produce nowadays.

The Moravians were a protestant christian group led by a Catholic priest, John Huss. They sailed from Germany in the first quarter of the 18th century and landed in Georgia, but migrated north to Pennsylvania and settled there. However, a few years later, a group of Moravians moved to North Carolina, bought land, and built a community which they called Wachovia after the River Wach in their ancestral homelands in Prague. Here they established a bank called Wachovia and set up an account for me. Ha, just kidding- However, this is indeed the namesake for one of the largest financial institutions in America today. It was founded in the former community of Wachovia which grew into the metropolis of Winston Salem, North Carolina. The Moravians still run a living history museum in Salem, NC. I've been there once- to make a withdrawal.

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