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History of the Tradition
The history of housewarming is a little bit sketchy, as historians cannot pinpoint when the tradition actually began. Some experts believe that in the days of the ancients, people presented firewood to the new homeowners as part of a housewarming tradition.
However, a popular story that has been recounted and is thought to be the origin of the tradition comes from Russia. A villager living in Russia named Boris, along with his wife Yelena, presented a gift of bread and a pinch of salt to certain dignitaries that were passing through their village. The bread symbolized good health and the salt represented a long life. The dignitaries were pleased with this gift, and the people of the village rejoiced in a new tradition.
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Blessing the house is customary in many countries and is done primarily to sanctify the house and keep it filled with love and happiness. In the traditional practice of house warming blessings, people ask for the grace of God and for God to enter their dwelling and bring a sense of security and comfort to the people of the home. It is also done to keep out evil spirits.
Various types of blessings for housewarming exist in different countries. For instance, in Ireland, people bless the home by hanging plaques and poems and saying a prayer to God. An important Irish blessing is "May God grant you always/A sunbeam to warm you/ A moonbeam to charm you/ A sheltering angel so nothing can harm you/ Laughter to cheer you/ Faithful friends near you/ And whenever you pray, Heaven to hear you".
In India, a Pooja (or prayer) is conducted by a Brahmin. The house is cleaned and decorated for the occasion, and the ceremony takes several hours to complete. A slightly different kind of Pooja that is sometimes conducted by people in India is a prayer to the nine planets of importance also known as the Navagraha. This is done to sanctify the home.
Thailand has an interesting tradition for blessing the home. The ceremony is an important part of their culture and is performed by many. It is called "Keun Ban Mai" in Thai, which means "going up into a new house."
The ceremony has two parts to it. The first part is where the family moves in their furniture but do not actually live in the house. A lucky day is chosen which is generally a Friday or a Saturday.
On the day of arrival, the family chooses a lucky hour and brings with them symbols of Buddha, food and money. The money is brought to ensure a prosperous future in the house. After the family moves in the second part of the blessing takes place, which is the ceremony.
Buddhist monks, usually a total of nine, are invited to perform a religious ceremony to bless the home and its occupants. The monks chant prayers and pass a white thread to one another. Once the ceremony is conducted, the monks are served food and something to drink. After eating, the senior monk will use white paste to mark all the doors to ward off evil spirits.
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Global Housewarming Traditions
People around the world follow different housewarming traditions for good luck and a prosperous new home. In Germany, people bring bread, salt and wine for housewarming. The bread is so that the members of the house may never go hungry, salt is for good luck, and the wine is so they never go thirsty.
In India, housewarming is known as Griha Pravesh. In this type of housewarming, the family moves into the house on a specific day and time known as a Muhurat according to the astrological calendars. The tradition is followed the way it is described in the ancient Indian scriptures.
A popular version of the tradition followed in many European countries, which is supposedly of Italian origin, is bringing bread so that your larder always remains full, salt to savor the bread, and honey for a sweet life in the new home. Another tradition in European countries is to hang a horseshoe over the door to bring good luck. A broom is sometimes also brought to sweep away the evil.
In the Jewish tradition, it is common to bring bread, salt, and sugar to the new home. Bread is so that the members of the house may never go hungry, salt for the savor and the sugar so that the lives of the people in the house will be full of sweetness.
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What It All Means
As we have seen, people bless their homes, perform ceremonies, bring gift items with them, and give them to new members of a household. The tradition has moral implications as well as religious ones. The uniqueness of each culture and its tradition brings with it a new perspective developing positive sentiments around which a new life in an auspicious new home can begin.
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1. Housewarming Gift Giving and Jewish Tradition, http://www.challahconnection.com/JewishHousewarming.asp
2. Blessing a New House Thailand, http://www.thailand-blogs.com/2010/07/06/blessing-a-new-house-thailand/
3. Housewarming Traditions, http://www.dgreetings.com/gift-ideas/housewarming-gifts/housewarming-tradition.html
4. Hindu House Warming Ceremony (Griha Pravesh), http://www.indiaparenting.com/home-and-decor/59_828/hindu-house-warming-ceremonygriha-pravesh.html
5. Welcome to Your New Home - A House Warming for Good Luck, http://www.syl.com/articles/welcometoyournewhomeahousewarmingforgoodluck.html
Image Credits: Kherson_Houses by Olaffpomona under Public Domain