Housewarming ideas and origins

by Dan Krell

If you’ve recently purchased a home or maybe thinking of a purchase in the near future – a housewarming party may be in your future. Before you decide to hold the “open house” for friends and family, you might consider the origins of the housewarming tradition and consider incorporating some of its original tenets.

Many believe that the etymology of housewarming is believed to originate from the idea of receiving people into your home “as if to make it warm.” Some believe that the housewarming began as a means of physically warming a new home at a time before furnaces were considered to be an expected feature of a home. The home would be “warmed” by the community, who provided the firewood as the housewarming gift. However likely this may be, today’s housewarming is most likely the survival of an ancient ritual that continues with contemporary customs.

In Archaeologia, or, Miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity, Volume 50, Part 1(Published by the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1887: viewable on Google eBooks), there is an acknowledgement to how the “modern house-warming” was part of family survival and ancient succession customs of “joint living.” The housewarming, as an extension of “joint living,” was the tradition of the family sharing food and other necessary possessions with the new home owner; so as to help them start and maintain their home. The basic idea of “joint living” was such that the extended family had stake in the new household’s survival because of property succession rituals. Sharing food during the “house-warming” was an expression of family “joint living” within the new home.

According to Domestic life in England, from the earliest period to the present time (Published by the Editor of “The family manual and servant’s guide”, 1835; viewable on Google eBooks), housewarmings during the middle ages were restricted by King Edward III to “certain ranks.” However, it may be that housewarmings regained popularity when King Richard II held a housewarming for the re-building of Westminster Hall in 1397; it is believed that ten thousand people attended and feasted at this housewarming.

The custom of giving bread, salt, and sometimes wine is a contemporary custom that appears to have developed from ancient feasts and family survival rituals. The symbolism implied is to have abundance and happiness in the home.

Obviously, housewarming customs have changed over time. From helping to heat a home and feed the family, the housewarming has been extended beyond family to include friends, neighbors, co-workers. Much like King Richard’s housewarming, guests are often fed rather than feeding the new home owners. Housewarming gifts have also changed; guests, who years ago thought nothing more than bringing food and firewood, might think of helping with the home’s aesthetics and comfort by bringing objects d’art such as paintings and knick-knacks. Today, contributing to the new home owner’s first mortgage payment might be a welcome housewarming gift.

When planning your housewarming, consider creating new traditions and/or incorporating customs from your cultural heritage. Housewarming customs vary around the world; some traditions are spiritual while others are symbolic. Some cultures are very meticulous about the housewarming ceremony and gifts (some cultures require the move-in day to coincide with astrological charts).

Remember that the purpose of the housewarming is to initiate the first of many happy times in your home, so have fun with it and enjoy!

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice.  Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

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