'La Crémaillère', a Tradition to Celebrate A New Home

Originally posted on & updated on 10th May, 2024

We recently congratulated our friends as they moved into their new home in France. In the UK we often send a card or a close friend maybe a gift. We have a custom in France when someone moves home, we send a bottle of champagne and wish them a happy “crémaillère”. I was once gifted a fantastic new espresso machine for mine, quelle surprise!  You may be wondering what is “pendre la crémaillère”? It may be a term you are not familiar with, but we bet you have attended several. A ‘crémaillère’ is simply a housewarming party, the origins of which are believed to have started in France.

In French-speaking countries across the globe, it is customary to celebrate the completion of a new home with a festive gathering known as “pendaison de crémaillère,” which translates to “hanging off the chimney hook.” This ancient tradition harkens back to medieval times when a house was built with the help of neighbours and friends. Once the construction was finished, the homeowner would invite all those who contributed to a celebratory dinner as a way of expressing their gratitude. The chimney hook, which was traditionally the last item to be installed in a new home, was considered to be a symbol of the house’s completion. The “thank you” meal marks the beginning of a new chapter in the homeowner’s life, surrounded by the support of their community.

History of the Crémaillère

Throughout history this tradition has evolved and now has its own name and customs vary across the world. For example in India, the ceremony is known as “Gruha Pravesh”, in South America the party is a “Food Pounder” and in Thailand you would celebrate the “Keun Ban Mai”. We think it is fascinating to see how the custom of a ‘house warming’ is celebrated by other cultures especially when you discover some of of the gifts and rituals from across the world may surprise you!

Italians have a custom of giving four gifts when someone moves into a new home: a broom, a candle, rice, and olive oil. The broom is used to sweep away the old, make room for the new, and ward off any evil spirits that may be present in the home. The candle represents light, while the rice and olive oil are often given to young couples as a symbol of fertility and fidelity, respectively.

Germans have a belief that a rooster can keep trespassers away from a new home, although this gift is not practical or popular these days. Instead, gifts decorated with roosters are given. In addition, you may see acorns lined up along windowsills in German homes. This is done for protection against evil spirits, as the ancient Norsemen held the oak tree in high regard and celebrated it as the “tree of heaven”.

Neighbourly Spirit

When you buy a house in France don’t be surprised if your neighbours invite you over for a late afternoon snack of cheese and cured sausages, known as “l’apéritif”. You may host your own ‘crémaillère’ however this is your neighbour’s way of welcoming you to their community.

If you’re lucky enough to own a home in the countryside your neighbours may invite you to celebrate with a welcome barbecue, once again a chance for you to meet the neighbours as you sample the local delicacies. To help strengthen local links and develop a sense of belonging, the French also celebrate a whole day dedicated to neighbours meeting neighbours, called “La Fête des Voisins” (Neighbour’s Day) which is held every spring.

Traditions such as this highlight the magic that is awaiting you in France. Your ‘crémaillère’ or a housewarming is a time to celebrate to bring old friends and new neighbours together. If you love France and you are considering making the move, read our complete guide to living in France.

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