Sunday, August 21, 2022

From Frogs to a Three-Legged Stool

Traditional Housewarming Gifts from Around the World

Zoë Sharp


When I discovered that my fellow Murder Is Everywhere blogger, Susan Spann, moved into a new house last week, it started me thinking about new homes in general, and housewarming gifts in particular.


Some of the traditions for welcoming someone to their new home seem fairly universal. Others are far more specific to different countries or regions. 

General Welcome Gifts

A broom, to help sweep away evil, or perhaps simply so that your home will always be clean.


A coin, for good fortune. (In some countries, such as the Philippines, scattering coins into the living room is thought to bring riches into the home.)


A candle, so the house will always be lit. Some traditions place emphasis on the lighting of a candle in the new home to dispel evil spirits and banish darkness.


Wood, for peace and stability.


A houseplant, to symbolise life.


Olive oil, which is either so your lamps will always be full and therefore your home will always have light, or to bless the occupants with well-being and health.


It’s also traditional to give bread, so the house will never know hunger.

Salt, to bring luxury and flavour to life. (In Poland, it’s traditional for both sets of parents of a newly married couple to give them bread and salt on the doorstep of their new home.)


Honey, or sugar, for sweetness.


And wine, standing for hope, good cheer, and a lack of thirst.

Other Foods and Plants

In India, boiling milk and rice together is believed to bring long life and prosperity to the new home. If the new homeowners are hoping to have children, however, uncooked rice has been given since ancient times to symbolise fertility and an abundance of love.


To the Greeks, the pomegranate has been sacred for many centuries and has come to represent fertility, abundance, and wealth. Even better than the fruit would be a pomegranate plant—climate permitting—so the homeowner can enjoy a future supply of pomegranates.

In Germany, the oak tree has traditionally been held in high esteem, so acorns were often placed on windowsills to ward off evil spirits.


In the UK, the Tree of Life is said to have particular meaning, as a reminder of the connectedness of all things, bridging the gap between heaven and earth. Not that people often gift entire trees, but a plaque, or trivet—like the one below from Shared Earth—would satisfy both a gift of the tree and of wood.


I’m informed that, in Scotland, the frog is considered a traditional good luck symbol. And in China, money frogs or toads—holding a coin in their mouths—are placed near the entrance to the house, or in an elevated place in the southeast corner of a room, which is considered the wealth corner. To activate your good luck, tie a red ribbon around your chosen amphibian’s neck as well as placing the coin in its mouth.


Because cows are considered sacred in India, a common housewarming tradition is to walk a cow around the outside of the house.

Whereas, in Russia, allowing a cat to be the first to cross the threshold is believed by many to bring good luck to the new home. Apparently, one of Russia’s banks used to hire out the services of a cat for a couple of hours to anyone who took out a mortgage with them. If you are already staff to your own cat, however, that would probably be a lot easier.

In Germany, roosters are thought to have the gift of warding off evil and warning away trespassers, although a symbolic rooster may be more acceptable to your neighbours these days.


Other Objects

Throughout Asia, the ringing of a bell inside a new house is traditional, to clear the rooms of any remaining bad luck or dying Chi, and bring new energy into the home.

Anything in red is considered lucky in China, and gifts of money often come in red envelopes. Gold is also considered lucky, as is anything that comes in a pair, such as earrings, or gloves. And if the gifts also have representations of oysters or dragons, so much the better.


In Kenya, a three-legged stool is a traditional housewarming gift, and one was given to Barack Obama by Kenyan family members when he took office for the first time as US president.

In France, a traditional part of celebrating a new house is the changing of the chimney hook, known as pendaison de crémaillère. The chimney hook hangs in the open fireplace, and was used to suspend a cooking pot over the fire. Changing the hook signified the start of the thank-you meal to those who had helped the new homeowners.

I’m sure I have missed out plenty of traditions, so please do let me know more!


This week’s Word of the Week is myrmidons, from the Greek myrmidones, a follower or subordinate of a powerful person, typically one who is unscrupulous or carries out orders unquestioningly. According to Greek legend, the Myrmidons were fierce warriors who fought under Achilles in the Trojan Wars. Originally from the island of Aegina, they were created from a colony of ants (murmekes) to repopulate the island after a plague had killed nearly all of its inhabitants.


  1. Susan, my welcome gifts are being packed. I'm just a bit worried that the cat may get at the frog...

  2. I thought the gift of wine was to help combat the headaches involved in owning a home. At 35 years and counting, our current home has absorbed a fair amount of wine...