York Town Square

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York Moravian’s Putz is an unsung, well-sung annual attraction

The lights of the Christmas Putz at York’s First Moravian Church are lit one by one as church members narrate the annual show. The entire Putz is illuminated here in 2004. Background posts: How come few in York know about S. Morgan Smith anymore?, John Adams: ‘Yesterday the greatest question was decided’ and Henry Laurens in York Town: ‘I will not quit my post, although I … fear that I may perish on it’.

In modern American, the word putz brings to mind many things.
But for centuries in Europe, the word Putz meant decoration, a specific Christmastime decoration.
As York’s First Moravian shows its Putz, it’s the largest manger or nativity scene, or creche, that you’ve probably ever seen.
The local display includes 15 different scenes telling about the birth of Jesus, highlighted by beautiful choral music, varied narrative voices and lights that walk viewers through the story.
In addition to its size, three other points about the Putz stand out… .

First, past and present members of the church narrate the 20-minute story.
And after the show, when you get a chance to see the scene up close, you notice the figures are hand painted.
And the scene is covered with moss, gathered from the Thomasville area.
All this is beautiful, indeed.
Church members supervising the Putz also provide tours of the decorated sanctuary.
There, you’ll learn about S. Morgan Smith, the Moravian pastor-turned-entrepreneur, whose name is on the large J. Horace Rudy stained glass window facing the congregation in the pulpit area.
Smith’s business progeny includes Voith Hydro and Precision Components.
Workers at those companies have long been members of the First Moravian congregation.
When you figure that these working men and women of York County helped produce the hand-crafted and colorful Putz, it adds to the experience of this unsung – or well-sung – site.