planning a house warming party

The meaning behind Housewarming - carrying in the embers to warm the home!

We have a house warming party planned for this Friday. It’s our first party here since we moved in. We’ve had some friends over for dinner a few times, but this is a landmark night!

It’s actually also the first time I’ve hosted a house warming party so I am wondering a little what to do. Mostly we’re just going to go with good food, good drink and good music (the three cornerstones of any good party, right?!) but I have a few other ideas up my sleeve to try and get ready in the next three days.

Do you know where the term “house warming” comes from? I discovered this yesterday. The term seems to have originally been used literally. Apparently in some cultures they’d actually carry the hot embers from the old house to the new one. Other stories tell of friends and neighbours bringing gifts of kindling and firewood to warm the new home. And another tradition (which may or not have Scottish roots) says that this was especially important in a house that had been empty for a while, to chase away the evil spirits that were believed to take up resident in empty houses.

My inner-anthropologist finds all this fascinating! I love the idea of neighbours and friends coming together to bring something so crucial as heat to a new home. It shows the strength of communities in these places.

And I love the symbolism of bringing something from the old home to the new… emphasising the connection between that old life and the new. We have so many good memories of our last home, and it’s nice to think that we’ve brought something more than just our furniture with us – we’ve brought our love of hospitality, our appreciation of good food and good conversation, the many ways in which we grew there.

I bought a book last month called Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. It’s an amazing resource of prayers, songs, readings and sayings. Most of the book is organised by date, but they have a small section of prayers for particular occasions, and one of those is a House Blessing.

As I read it I was reminded of this literal meaning of the house warming, and the image stayed with me as I read this prayer:

There is a friend’s love
in the gentle heart of the saviour.
For love of him we offer friendship
and welcome every guest.
Lord, kindle in our hearts
a flame of love for our neighbour,
for our enemies, our friends, our kindred all,
from the lowliest thing that liveth
to the name that is highest of all.

We call on the sacred three
to save, shield and surround
us and our kin,
this house, this home,
this day, this night,
and every night.