The Putz (derivative of the German word: “to decorate”) is more than a Nativity scene. A diorama 16’ long and 6’ deep, it depicts the Judean countryside with Bethlehem and the nearby stable as a central scene. On the hillsides are other scenes relating to the coming of the Christ child. On one hill is the Prophet Isaiah whose Old Testament prophecy spoke of a new King from the House of David. Other scenes include the angel’s visit to Mary, shepherds in fields near Bethlehem, Wise Men coming over the hills from afar, and the scene of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt.
In the 18th and 19th centuries every Moravian home had a Putz. It was the visual aid for the family’s telling of the birth of Jesus. No two Putzes were alike, so between Christmas and New Year, it was the custom for families to visit one another to see the creativity in Putz building. Eventually the Christmas tree replaced the Putz in most homes. But at the Lititz Church the custom of “putzing” lives on.
Each year members of the Church plan and execute a freshening of the Putz. Claire dePerrot freshens the moss that gives the Putz’s Judean hills their soft green look. She cares for the moss and replaces sections as necessary.
Sue Snyder, another Putz volunteer, said, “It just wouldn’t seem like Christmas without a Putz.”
Brenda Barnes, who was a host for some of the showings of the Putz in previous years, says, “I was very moved to see the expectation in the eyes of people as they came to see the Putz. It is a wonderful way to tell the story of Jesus’ birth!”
Nothing gives the Putz a 21st-century connection more than the electronically controlled lights and sound. Rick Watson, a retired engineer, is in charge of those controls. The Lititz Moravian Senior Choir sang most of the musical selections in the sound track. One thing that never changes is the Moravian Star high in the Putz sky. There it glows during the reading of the nativity passages, and leads the Wise Men in their journey to Bethlehem. Watson says, "that Star leads all of us as we approach Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus!”
The Lititz Moravian Church is located at 8 Church Square, along the 200 block of East Main Street. Off-street parking is available in the lot behind the church and at the Pierson playground off South Cedar Street. The sanctuary and adjoining facilities are handicap-accessible.
1) Claire dePerrot keeps the Putz green by watering the moss.
2) Sue Snyder places one of the figurines.