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'Cremaillere' is a Great Tradition to Celebrate Your French House
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”. You may be wondering what is “pendre la crémaillère”? It may be a term you are not familiar 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.
French speaking countries across the world celebrate a party called a “pendaison de crémaillère”, the expression which literally means “hanging of the chimney hook”, dates back to medieval times. It is thought that once your house was finished, you would invite all those who contributed to its build to eat dinner with you as a thank you. As the chimney hook was the last thing to be installed in a new house this marked the completion of your home and the beginning of the “thank you” meal.
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!
In Russia, villagers will give bread and salt to their new neighbours, a custom that has spread through Europe. The bread is given so that the new locals never go hungry and the salt as a symbol that their life will always be full of flavour. Not only are these gifts symbolic but also they are practical as they help fill the pantries of the new home owners.
Italians have four main gifts when moving into their new home, a broom, a candle, rice and olive oil. The broom is for you to sweep away the old as you make room for the new as well as dispelling any evil spirits that may linger in your home. The candle represents light whilst the rice and olive oil are usually favoured for young couples as they move in to their first home. The rice is offered as a “fertile” blessing on the home and the olive oil is said to keep one another faithful.
Germans believe that a rooster will keep away trespassers from a new home, although this gift isn’t exactly practical, or even popular with the neighbours, today gifts decorated with roosters instead. When visiting a German home you might also see acorns lined up along windowsills, these are used as protection against evil spirits as the ancient Norsemen held the oak tree in such high regard the “tree of heaven” is celebrated in this way.
When you buy a house in France don’t be surprised if your French neighbours also 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 your 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 your new neighbours together. And why not add a litle retro-chic style with classic clothes from the 50's to get the party rocking in style and don't forget to bring wine or you'll be in trouble!