Putz items, by true definition, were any figures or buildings that when displayed together, told the Biblical story of the birth of Christ. The term today is loosely used for any item that is used under a Christmas tree to create a Christmas “garden” or “yard.” Buildings, homemade or mass produced, composition figures and animals, bottle brush trees and any assortment of various accessories, possibly a toy train and usually a Nativity set at the heart of the display are just a few things that might spark one’s creativity when designing a “putz” for under the tree.
Displays under a tree were first photographed for Victorian postcards and a lot of times included gifts under the tree that were brought by Santa. Elaborate “putz” scenes reached their heights in the 1940s and 1950s. Today you will generally find them under the trees of diehard collectors of antique Christmas items.