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An Old-Fashioned Housewarming

Renee-Lucie BenoitWe've been on our new homestead for three months now and things have settled down pretty well to the point that I am now considering hosting a Traditional House Warming party. We'll probably have a barbecue in our backyard and invite all the neighbors and all our old friends who have kept up with our peregrinations.

When I was a kid growing up in Iowa every time a new family moved into the neighborhood all the wives and mothers were johnny-on-the-spot with a pie or banana bread or some such goodie to welcome the new family to the neighborhood and then get to know them. This is where the traditional house warming party was so wonderful an event. The new family would get to know their neighbors and the neighbors would get to know them. Everyone sat around and ate the potluck dishes the neighbors brought and the new family would show everyone their new home.  Advice was given. Favors were offered. It is a lovely tradition and I would like to see it happen more.

Along with the food, little gifts are also customary. The idea, of course, is that the new homeowners could probably use the items and if they already have them they might appreciate having new things that aren't all worn out. They just spent a bundle on the down payment and insurance and most likely repairs so little gifts will be greatly appreciated. Something for the new house or something to be enjoyed during the party are customary.

In the olden days the housewarming party was symbolic but also literal. Of course, no one had central heating in those days and houses were warmed by wood fires in the fireplace or woodstove.  Each guest would bring firewood as a gift so the new home owners would have plenty of wood to burn. There was no harm in the fact that they also believed that a warm house repelled evil spirits. It was important to have the house properly prepared for habitation.

Here's another tradition that I've heard of. My cousin from North Carolina tells me of a Southern get-together known as a "Food Pounder". At a Food Pounder guests bring the new homeowners a pound of food such as cheese, cornmeal, flour, sugar, or any other staple needed to stock the new home's pantry. Nowadays even canned goods or fresh foods are proper.

Housewarming Gifts

Bread, salt and wine are traditional housewarming gifts.  In the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" we hear George and Mary Bailey speak these words when they first occupy their new house:

Mary: "Bread, so that this house may never know hunger. Salt, so that life may always have flavor."
George: "Wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever."

Other ideas might include:

Small appliances such as toaster, blender, juicer or wooden spoons.
Home-cooked food or local restaurant gift card.
Flowers or plants.
A bottle of champagne.
Assortment of local baked goods.
Scented candles.
Homemade tea towels or potholders.
Scented soaps.
Tea or coffee.

Now as soon as I've set the date I will let you all know and I look forward to seeing you!

Wine

Photo by Fotolia/idea_studio