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We come bearing logs, frogs, and beer tubs

Expat Tips & Tricks

Let’s get to the roots of housewarming parties – we’ll throw in some nifty “how-to’s” and tips, while we’re at it!

Aaah, the joys of a housewarming party: A chance to show-off your new digs, to appreciative – and appreciated – oooh’s and aaah’s of eager guests; the perfect opportunity for some quality time with family and friends, and maybe even an enemy or two (you may want to turn them green with envy, after all. *Insert mischievous laugh here*); and a good excuse to eat and drink (unless, of course, you are the designated driver) a little too much despite the lack of a major holiday. Oh, and let’s not forget: The presents! Yippee for presents!

Cold weather and evil spirits: the unwanted guests

Looking back at its origins, the tradition of housewarming had rather humble – and literal – beginnings.

It started many moons ago, back in the days when heat in the home was as much a necessity as it is today, but less of a convenience. In the absence of central heating, each neighbor and guest to a new house would bring wood for the pot-bellied stove or fireplace, to literally “warm the house” – the birth of the much-loved housewarming tradition.

Aside from warding away the cold, the warmth of the fire was believed to create an atmosphere to ward-off evil spirits.

Uninhabited houses were perceived a dwelling place for vagrant spirits; as such, the house was thoroughly cleaned prior to moving in. A warm atmosphere was considered vital in repelling these spirits, preventing them from returning.

Hanging the chimney hook

In France, housewarming is rooted in the tradition of Pendaison de crémaillère, or “hanging the chimney hook.”

During the medieval times, it was common practice to invite all the workers involved in the building of the house for a meal when the construction was completed, as a way of thanking them. An interesting social experiment, I would think, if it were to be applied today.

The meal was prepared in a big pot over the fireplace; the heat of which was regulated by a chimney hook, to set the pot nearer to or further away from the heat.

This hook, which was the last item to be installed in the course of moving in, heralded the “thank you” meal, and symbolized the move into the new home.

Housewarming “How-To’s”

Though housewarming parties are generally loose and free-flowing, like most other occasions, it is always best to invite your guests in advance (proper etiquette for this would be anywhere from two weeks to five days prior). It is always fun to keep the guest list interesting, but also intimate. Go for a diverse yet still closely-acquainted group whenever possible.

Although any date after moving in works for a housewarming party, the first three months are usually devoted to settling in. Most people throw one shortly after the third month, but within the sixth month of moving in.

Some people, especially in religious parts of the world where “blessing” a new home is part of tradition, choose to hold the housewarming on the same date as the house blessing; usually done by a priest, pastor, guru, or other leader of a religious sect or order.

Aside from moving into a new home, renovating or remodeling an old one may also warrant a housewarming party. After all, any excuse for bites, booze, and banter will do.

Potluck parties are acceptable, these days (especially among close friends and family), but you may want to coordinate the menu to some extent.

Gifts are not obligatory, but are part-and-parcel of the housewarming tradition. Fire logs, though no longer advisable and may very well draw the most curious of looks, may still be welcome in some bitingly-cold parts of Canada (half-meant joke).

Bearers of (traditional) gifts

Next to fire logs, frog figurines rank among the traditionally given gifts. Frogs are believed to symbolize good luck and fertility, and the semblance of these animals is usually given at weddings or housewarmings. Unless, of course, the recipient is Batrachophobic. Then you may want to skip the frogs – and any other reptile, for that matter – and stick with bluebird gifts, which are also considered lucky. Then again, there is Ornithophobia to consider…

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