While nowadays the warmth people share at housewarming parties is more on the emotional, in the old days, housewarming parties were literally about the act of warming a new house. Guests would bring firewood as a gift and build fires in all available fireplaces. The resulting warmth was not only comforting, it was also believed to repel evil spirits. Vacant houses were believed to be inhabited by spirits, so ritual cleansing was necessary before they could be safely occupied.
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These days, the nature of the housewarming party has lost its ritual sense, and we even throw them after completing a renovation or home remodeling project. The gifts we bring have also evolved, going from the ritual firewood to things that symbolize good luck, peace, and all sorts of well-wishes, to things whose value is their practicality and beauty. Here’s a short list of some things you might want to bring to your next housewarming party:
Your choice should depend on what your host likes and not what you like. It’s alright if you give wine to a beer drinker or vice versa, but it’s really going to be awkward if you give alcohol to someone who doesn’t drink or is a former alcoholic.
This is another thing that seems like a no-brainer until you realize it’s not. After all, do you know the other person’s dietary preferences, religious taboos, and allergies? Nothing like giving cheese to someone lactose intolerant, meatloaf to vegans, or homemade peanut butter cookies to someone with severe peanut allergies
The choices here run the gamut from wall clocks to picture frames to candle holders, wreath hangers to doormats to door knockers. It’s best to bring something it’s alright to have more than one/one set of. There will be other guests, after all, and how many wreath hangers and door knockers will one house really need?
Also, make sure you don’t mistake their tastes for yours. It’s best if you get to scope out the house before buying the gift, just so you’re sure that whatever you get fits well with whatever they have. However, if you find yourself pressed for time, something minimalist or simple and rustic is going to have an easier time fitting in than a gilt rococo monstrosity. That said, it’s always good to do your homework. Some people do like gilt and rococo after all.
Plants and Garden Decor
Plants are a traditional housewarming gift in many cultures, and some are supposed to bring good luck. Of course it’s good to scope out if the recipients have a garden and if what you’re giving will fit their theme. It’s also good to give something low-maintenance and easy to care for, unless you know you’re giving it to a hardcore gardener. Planters, vases, and the like will also go well with gardeners.
Wine decanters, wine glasses, cheese knives, decanter/wine glasses, bottle openers, scented candles, bath soap . . . It’s going to depend on what the recipients are into. Scents and soaps are especially touch and go, and a set of general purpose glasses or the like will probably be the safest bet if you don’t know the recipients’ tastes too well.
Gift Cheques and Dining Out Coupons
These generally aren’t seen as the most thoughtful, but they’re generally the most practical, especially if there are going to be a lot of people at the party, and so there’s a risk there will be multiples of a lot of things. A dining out coupon can also be greatly appreciated since moving in or renovating can cause a lot of stress, and a night without having to cook or wash dishes might be very welcome.
Brandon Peters is an entrepreneur, writer, and student of social customs the world over.