What is a Putz?
Technically the German word putz means something "to put," but in German-American vernacular, it means something like "putter around." That relates to the subject of this web page because German-Americans and related cultures have been setting up little villages around the Christmas tree or Nativity for at least a century and a half. And generally, once the houses and accessories came out, family members (usually the mother) would "putz around" with the pieces until they were "just right."
- - A Brief History of Christmas Villages from FamilyChristmasOnline.com(tm)
- - What is a Glitterhouse? from BigIndoorTrains.com(tm)
- - "Papa Ted" Althoff's Categories/History Page from the
CardboardChristmas.com(tm) archive of "Papa Ted's" Place.
For many years, the "putzers" would use toy wooden houses or house-shaped cardboard candy boxes from Germany. But the advent of 8-bulb electric Christmas light sets brought about a new kind of putz house - Japanese-made cardboard houses decorated with sparkly materials and/or fake snow and equipped with translucent (usually cellophane) windows that glowed when you stuck a C6 light through a hole in the back. For over thirty years, mass-marketers like Sears-Roebuck offered fairly simple versions of these, usually in sets of eight. But in recent years, collectors have unearthed a fascinating variety of putz houses, many of which show surprising creativity for an art form which must have wholesaled in the penny-a-piece range.
When I first became interested in collecting these houses, I started out trying to catalog every Japanese cardboard house ever made and then publish them in a "Collectors Guide." At one time I believed that there might be 1000 of them in existence -- but I was wrong. I now have thirty chapters with no end in sight. Since previously undiscovered houses show up all the time, I don't think I'll ever finish this project, but I will die trying.
In addition, the cost of publishing this book in colored, library-quality pages would be prohibitive. However, if you're interested in a specific chapter, I have made some of those available. Please check back for more information on this project.
In the meantime, you will find the following resources helpful.