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05.16.2001: Etiquette Schmetiquette
common-sense manners
for real-world living
1 2 3

Housewarming traditions...
Someone asked what the origins of things at a housewarming such as bread, salt, sugar, a penny and a knife. Do you know? 

Ė L.

A: Off the top of my head, damned if I know. But after doing a little bit of poking around on the web, hereís what I discovered ...

The bread and salt tradition comes from an old Russian folk custom. Back in the day, when the emperor and empress would pay a village a visit, merchants and gentry would present their esteemed guests with a round loaf of bread piled with salt, a sign of hospitality. Peasants used the same ceremony upon being introduced to a landlord and his new wife, with the gift of bread and salt signifying that the new couple would always have the necessities of life. When given at housewarmings, therefore, bread and salt represent the giverís wish that the recipientís pantry will always be full. Sugar, on the other hand, symbolizes the hope for a sweet life.

As for the knife, the folk lore goes like this: if you give a knife to a friend, the recipient is supposed to give you a penny as a symbolic gesture to avoid cutting the friendship. But, youíre also not supposed to give knives as housewarming presents to your neighbors, because superstition says itíll make the new neighbor your enemy. Superstitions, sheesh Ö how do people come up with them?

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