It is difficult to explain the background to the little houses that are found at the foot of Christmas trees. Some believe, however, that they appeared at the same time as the first santons, towards the end of the XVIIIth century.

We know, however, that the Moravians who emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1741 to establish the town of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, preserved their customary Christmas crèche decorations. Called putz (from the German putzen: to decorate), this tradition involves adding several decorative elements to the crèche: dozens, sometimes hundreds, of figures, houses, waterfalls, bridges, fences, fountains and even gardens to create imaginary landscapes.

Sets of small buildings began to appear on the market in Canada at the beginning of the XXth century. Around 1920, Germany was exporting large numbers of these sets to North America and from 1930, Japan did the same.

Rugs for the base of the Christmas tree, which appeared on the market around 1913, were a complementary and indispensable addition and were meant to protect floors against the wax of dripping candles. The first rugs sported Santa Claus driving a sleigh drawn by eight reindeer. In a northern country like Canada, cotton wool proved to be very useful to simulate great expanses of snow. Towards 1930, crêpe paper designed to look like stone or brick began to replace these unsophisticated rugs.

CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network
CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network

© 1995, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans