In any case, both yesterday and today the 100 Years Ago feature mentioned marvelous putzes. Yesterday's was a putz set up by the South Side boy scouts, and today's was set up by the Central Fire Station. Both items mentioned how wonderfully detailed the putzes were and TOF was transported to his youth when Christmas time meant a lot of putzing around as we trooped from house to house to view people's putzes.
The Moravians hereabout are still big on this, but it was more broadly a German thing and while putzen means to decorate or adorn, "a putz" more specifically refers to the elaborate Christmas villages that people used to (and sometimes still) set up to augment their creche sets.
The Mut had an expression she liked to use with respect to TOF and brother Dennis: "Quit putzing around." It's practical meaning was that we kids were heel-dragging or going about aimlessly. The meaning evidently derived from the German custom of going about on Christmas Day to view one another's putzes. Mut's family was a fecund one, which gave many destinations for the putz parade. Here is a picture of Mut's grandparents and her uncles and aunts:
|Yes, you counted right.|
The custom has alas diminished. When TOF was a youth every residence on his block was German -- and three were relatives. Today, there is only one relative on the block, and a host of non-Germans.
An excerpt from Eifelheim regarding Nativity sets:
The monks at St. Martin’s Church were assembling a large crèche in the sanctuary. Francis of Assisi had begun the custom of building a Christmas crèche, and its popularity had lately spread to the Germanies.
“We start placing figures after Martinmas,” the prior explained. The Feast of St. Martin would mark the popular beginning of the Christmas season, though not the liturgical one. “First, the animals. Then, on Christmas Vigil-night, the Holy Family; on Christmas day, the Shepherds; and finally on Epiphany, the Wise Men.”
“Certain church fathers,” Dietrich said, “ascribed the Nativity to March, which would be more reasonable than December if shepherds were watching their flocks by night.”
The monks paused in their labors and looked at each other. They laughed. “It’s what happened that matters, not when it happened,” the prior told him.
Dietrich had no answer, only that it was the sort of historical irony that had appealed to students in Paris and he was no longer a student and this was not Paris. “The calendar is wrong in any case,” he said.
“As Bacon and Grosseteste showed,” the prior agreed. “Franciscans are not backward in natural philosophy. ‘Only the man learned in nature truly understands the Spirit, since he uncovers the Spirit where it lies – in the heart of nature.’”
Dietrich shrugged. “I intended a jest, not a criticism. Everyone talks about the calendar, but no one does anything to fix it.” In fact, since the Incarnation signified the beginning of a new era, it had been symbolically assigned to March 25th, New Year’s Day, and December 25th necessarily fell nine months after. Dietrich nodded at the crèche. “In any case, a pretty display.”
“It is not ‘a pretty display,’” the prior admonished him, “but a dread and solemn warning to the mighty: ‘Behold your God: a poor and helpless child!’”
A "dread and solemn warning"? Perhaps we are not looking on these things properly anymore.
|Some things are so iconic as to be instantly recognizable|
even in abstraction. (h/t Mark Shea)