For the 73rd season, Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem is sharing its Christmas Putz with visitors to the city. But the Moravian Putz ("cleaning" or "decorating") tradition goes back centuries. It seems to be an integral part of Germanic culture, and in moving to Saxony and coming under the protection of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf, the Moravians themselves were pretty much absorbed into Germanic culture.
The Putz in the Moravian Church tradition is preeminently a religious expression. (Better eliminate all qualifiers. It IS a religious expression, and nothing less.) It is a representation in miniature of the world into which the Christ Child was born, and it depicts His Nativity as the center of that world. At Central Moravian the Putz and its stories are narrated, highlighted with music, and lighted. Although I have seen it only once and may not see it again, I am glad I have seen it once.
But Moravians are not the only people found of miniatures. The Pennsylvania Dutch people, being Germanic, seem also to have a special love for them. Many are the Pennsylvania Dutch homes which featured (and perhaps still do) a "miniature village" under the Christmas tree. It might be secular, having no Nativity scene, but instead a layout with electric, or at least wind-up, trains. But it, too, was an expression of a world in little.
The Central Moravian Church is open during most of the winter holiday season. It is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and will have its final open day on New Year's Eve from 1 to 10:30 p.m.
For information about Putz tours and showings, call the church at (610) 868-5661.