Housewarming gift tradition.

Before all you “old timers” fall over, or work yourself into a lather, yes it’s me. Guenzilla strikes again. And I knew that when I needed a question answered, there was no other place to go…

To the point:
For as long as I can remember, my family has had a tradition of giving a gift basket containing bread, wine and salt as a housewarming gift. I have no idea why.

All I know is that when anybody we know purchases a new home, or moves into a new apartment, we always take them a purty basket of these items. The recipients are always happy to get it and seem to just know WHY they get this stuff, and accept it gleefully.

I don’t know if it is a cultural thing, based on either the Italian or Jewish sides of my family (or a combination of both), or if it is that my mother was notoriously cheap when it came to gift giving.

I’ve asked my (Italian) maternal grandmother why, and all she has ever said is, “because that’s what you are supposed to do.” Thanks, Emma. sigh

Unfortunately, my paternal grandmother (Jewish) passed away a long time ago, so asking her would involve a seance. But the weird thing is BOTH grandmothers did it! (Except the italian grandmother used a loaf of Italian bread, and the Jewish grandmother used the, um… flat bread?)

So, I come to you, oh great Cecil, and your teeming millions for a little help in explaining WHY I have to do this!!! (Other than the fact the stereo typical reaction to NOT doing it would be that my genetic/cultural influences would pre-dispose me to a double dose of guilt should I not follow thru on these tradtitions.)

I shall await your replies with anxious anticipation.

Obtusely yours,

Yes, it’s me.

I’m a fairly new poster but I am an ancient supporter of Cecil’s war against ignorance. I hate to see a reasonable question go unanswered. Bread and salt are a very traditional welcoming gift in Russia. When Boris Yeltsin gets off the airplane to visit a city in Russia he will be greeted by a woman in traditional costume and given bread and salt. He will then take a ceremonial bite out of the bread. At a traditional Russian wedding the mother of the bride, as part of the ceremony, will welcome the groom to the family with bread and salt and the groom will take a bite of it. Unfortunately right now a lot of senior citizens in Russia live on a diet of bread and salt.
Anyway, Russia has always had a large Jewish population and has produced a lot of Jewish immigrants. I would say that the Jewish side of your family has Russian roots. your family has modified the traditional Russian welcoming bread and salt by adding a bottle of wine, and making it a housewarming tradition rather than a welcoming of a new arrival tradition. This tradition of your family’s seems to have undergone substantial mutation from the source and is probably unique to your family.

Ever seen Jimmy Stewart in “It’s A Wonderful Life?” He’s financing the building of homes for the working class – goes out to welcome them when they move in, and takes bread, wine, and salt. Now, I haven’t watched the movie since last Christmas, but IIRC each gift is a hope for the future: bread so that there will always be plenty to eat, salt, hmm, don’t remember the salt, but probably either to signify enough money to pay the bills or else some reference to it providing “flavor” for life, and wine to share in happy times, to make merry. Or some such thing.


Salt does signify money, at least in some traditions. Roman soldiers were paid partly in salt, which everybody needed to preserve food, so the custom is probably at least that old.

Bob the Random Expert
“If we don’t have the answer, we’ll make one up.”

Hence the word “salary.”

Jacques Kilchoer
Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

That would explain why the call my pay “century”.

“If you had manifested fatigue upon noticing that you had been an ass, that would have been logical, that would have been rational; whereas it seems to me that to manifest surprise was to be again an ass.”
Mark Twain
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc

Dammit, JRK, I meant to mention ‘salary’, but went back to fix a couple of typos and got lost on the way. But I did know it!

(Since we both knew it, does that mean the initials are significant? :wink: )

Bob the Random Expert
“If we don’t have the answer, we’ll make one up.”

I know that bread, salt and wine play a role in Polish wedding customs so maybe it has the same meaning. The bread, as mentioned before, is to symbolize that the family will not go hungry, the wine symbolizes that the family will not thirst and it is also a celebratory beverage, and the salt reminds them that life may be difficult at times and they will have to struggle through it. I ahve also seen hosewarming baskets include a new penny (for luck) and a new broom (self-explanatory.) Many pagan religions also use salt for purification rituals.

Born O.K. the first time…