A longstanding tradition celebrated in part belief, part revelry, housewarming parties have been a continuing ritual partaken of by new owners of or movers into an abode of their own. It does not really matter whether you have just acquired a new home or instead rented in an apartment by yourself, housewarming parties indeed are encompassing of the enormous warmth of new beginnings they remain resplendent in. Across many countries and in diverse cultures, these celebrations of what might very well classify as a rite of passing in life has been a universal adherence taken to in different interpretations and explored in myriad assertions of it being the stepping in to a new world of home and living.
Even in their roots in tradition though, housewarming parties continue to enjoy as much relevance in contemporary times. Celebrations of course have shifted from the more ritualistic mode of observance to emerging instead as occasions of indulging in fun, but many elements of what pertains to the spectrum of belief relating to luck and auspiciousness and all things new and hopeful remain steeped still in their own importance. In that regard, housewarming parties occur as a wonderful blend of traditions seeping into the moulds of modernity, delivering to that extent a purpose that is joyful, significant and celebratory indeed, all at once.
The origins of this interesting tradition of ushering in new beginnings in newer still spaces of living might not be very precise to pinpoint at. But no less interesting is at least the way in which this warming indeed celebration came to took its name. Deriving very literally from the tradition of earlier times to warm up homes and hearths by lighting indeed fires at fireplaces, this enticing sounding prospect of throwing a housewarming party traces its roots. The intention though wasn’t merely warming up the house newly moved into, but also entailed the belief of driving out spirits possibly inhabiting within through conjuring of that positive, protective aura of warmth. Persisting in this capacity as a tradition that has been finding expression since at least the medieval times, the concept of housewarming came to be, taking upon itself the even more fancied assumption of celebrations characteristic of a hearty party instead.
In such pre- eminence of its significance that emerges from amongst the trails of traditions, it is no wonder that housewarming parties still harbour such customs of comparable ancientry that can be regarded as really unique and intriguing. In different parts of the world, this essentially celebratory occasion of something as simple as moving into a new house that however at the same time marks also as profound a reality of stepping into a new life of sorts altogether furthers its own quirky essence. Characterised by traditionality not just in the realm of what governs its ritualistic observance aside from its partying prominence are parties held in the ‘honor’ of warming new homes that are essentially interlinked with some quintessential elements catering to the very spirit of their observance. And most common and also the most exciting of them all is what governs in fact the essence of every party ever. That pertains to the extraordinarily charming world of gifts and gifting. And while you can choose to shower the host of these largely personal housewarming parties with just about anything you know they would fancy by virtue of being a close enough acquaintance of them to get an invitation into their very new house, there still exist some really curious, quirky yet thoughtful and symbolic traditional gifts that present themselves as indeed the ultimate standard in this arena of gifting the goodies.
Even outside traditional considerations though, it indeed makes sense for the choice of housewarming gifts to be such items that invariably has something or the other to do with household requirements. In its gifting premise, the housewarming notion enjoys also a more specific origin that however remains somewhat ambiguous still in its most exact stemming, quite ironically perhaps. The tradition of wishing new homeowners with gifts originated in either France or Russia but what is certain even in this split ‘nationality’ of it is that housewarming gifts have almost always been intended to be functional offerings of goodwill. As ceremonial tokens of good wishes as well, housewarming gifts have always been very particular in their being. Right from its maiden assertion sometimes perhaps in the 16th century when housewarming gifts almost certainly used to be firewood presented to the hosts in keeping with the literal essence of the event to evolving through the ages to include everything from pantry staples to daily necessities and even more modern day options pertaining to home decor and the like, the functional essence permeates still the thought behind the gifting. But symbolic assertions dominate also in as much popularity, with different cultures pertaining to their own notions of ushering in luck within the premises of their new haven in really unique manifestations.
One such traditional and commonly prevailing choice for gifting at housewarming parties both in symbolic and practical considerations happens to be the very basic combo of bread and salt. Adhered to in all symbolism across a range of European and Middle Eastern countries, in such significance that the tradition also commands exclusive identity along many of these spheres of geography, while being also as revered a feature in Jewish culture is this conjoined assertion of the two equally prominent symbols of hospitality that are believed to be the foremost elements making up any new home. The gifting of a loaf of bread is symbolic in its wishing upon the new home’s inhabitants never having to face hunger while the accompanying dose of the salt is intended to ensure a life full of flavor. Other foods that made the cut as symbolic gifts intended to celebrate the hopefulness in new beginnings have been such fruits as the pomegranate believed to bring good luck, fertility and abundance by the people of Greece as well as the European and American reverence of the pineapple in its exuding grace of luxury, warmth and hospitality.
Along similar ‘ideals’ of what traditionally governs the gifting etiquette in the partied celebrations of housewarming in different parts of the world but residing in more purposive and less symbolic beliefs are other expressions of food that make for equally thoughtful enough presentations of plenty. Of particular functionality is a certain tradition followed by natives in the Southern United States where housewarming takes the form of a somewhat old fashioned party commonly called the Food Pounder. Deriving its identity from the essence of its gifting etiquette being poundful offerings of food, whether of cheese, cornmeal, flour, sugar, or any other staple is this custom rooted indeed in immense consideration of convenience of the new homeowners. The food trail taken to by the housewarming celebration in India on the other hand is somewhat even more unique. Custom in this part of the world requires letting a pot of milk boil and spill over in the belief that that the overflow is symbolic of an abundance of happiness, wealth and peace in the new house. It also is as customary to sweeten the milk with some sugar and partaken of by all present at the occasion of the housewarming to ensure sharing of the good and the bads of life together in their new home in the days to come.
Food makes also for a certain unique ritual of housekeeping in the country of France. Characterised by the custom of hanging the chimney hook, this French prevalence of the pendaison de crémaillère is a medieval drawing tied to an expression of gratitude towards those involved in the building of the house, that which traditionally used to pertain to the entire village. Deriving therefore from its physical essence but bearing still meaning in symbolic assertion is this custom that saw a dinner being held as a vote of thanks. Preparing the meal in a large pot is as customary, as is the requirement of the pot being regulated in its heat by a chimney hook. In being the last thing to be installed in the new house before being lived in after the thank you meal, the chimney hook indeed is a very prominent element of the new beginning, explaining why an entire housewarming custom came to be established around it.
Traditions in other parts of the world catering to the happy housewarming heartiness differ widely like in Uzbekistan where clothes are widely gifted by guests to Russia where it is customary to let a cat make the maiden entry into the new house to bring along with it luck for all. Germans instead opt for a rooster to be their choice of the housewarming gift while the gifting etiquette for the Italians manifest across the four essentials as diverse as brooms and candles to rice and olive oil. Filipinos scout out another more practical worldly requirement of money in their new homes, scattering coins in the living room to invite in prosperity and luck.
Across numerous such customs and rituals and traditions that mark the ceremonious indeed ushering in of lives and with that the desired fortune of love and luck into homes, housewarming parties span out as heartwarming universal celebrations of the very essence that homes bear as happy dwellings in togetherness or in solitude, as per individual fancies of the expectations they bear in their awareness about life. It indeed is pertaining to the aspect of living in all warm realisation in a space of one’s own that celebrations in private togetherness like those of the traditionally modern housewarming parties entertain and pursue.