The tradition of building miniature Christmas village landscapes (‘putz’), including houses, animals and other hand-crafted wooden figures, began with the Pennsylvania Dutch in the late 1800s. Mass-produced cardboard Putz houses, sold in dime stores, became popular in the mid-20th century, and have also become highly collectible.
These creative and colorful cardboard houses were initially imported from Japan in the late 1920s, a logical outgrowth of the candy/surprise-box houses the Japanese had been making for some time. As whimsical, delightful "eye-candy" on open dimestore counters, they were an immediate sensation. The finest houses were produced for less than ten years, because the onset of WW2 brought a trend toward more "realistic" toys and trains. However, Christmas village houses have continued to be produced in some form up to the present.