Traditional Housewarming Gifts (And What They Symbolize)

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Here are a handful of items that are traditionally given to new homeowners with each holding their own special meaning. I’ve done some research and some say they are rooted in Jewish custom, others say Italian, German, Russian. I think it’s safe to say they each started in the “old country” (Europe) and have carried over to the new (America).

If you’ve always wondered why an item was given and what it meant, here’s a handy reference list for you.


  • Bread: So that this house may never know hunger…or…So your cupboards will always be full
  • Salt: Given with the message “That life may always have flavor”, can also represent added luxury or flavor to life
  • Sugar: Means “So your life shall always have sweetness”
  • Wine: Symbolizes the hope “That joy and prosperity may reign forever”…or…”That your family will never be thirsty”…or…”So you will always be of good cheer”
  • Honey: So that you may always enjoy the sweetness of life
  • Broom: “So your home may always be clean” or “To help sweep away any evil and bad luck”
  • Coin: “So you may dwell in good fortune”
  • Candle: “So that this house will always have light” or “So you may dwell in light and happiness”

You can give a single item, a couple or fill a basket with all of them. Make each a little more special by wrapping in ribbon or raffia, cover jar lids with fabric or lace. Tuck in a handwritten note with the meaning of each item given.

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26 Comments to “Traditional Housewarming Gifts (And What They Symbolize)”
  1. Dansk says:

    As short and simple as this was, this aticle was very informative. I will be adding the little explanations on gift notes….

  2. Jacqueline Kay says:

    Very good information. It was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!

  3. Mary says:

    Perfect just what I was looking for

  4. Tammy says:

    Perfect, just the info. I was looking for.

  5. Suzanne says:

    Great refreshers for a glitchy memory. Thanks!

  6. Mary Anne says:

    After reading this list, purchased items and am on my way to the new neighbor’s house warming party. Am including the list!

  7. annette says:

    Perfect . thanks so much

  8. Ann says:

    Thank you! Just what I was looking for too!

  9. sarajane says:

    just the info i was looking for!

  10. Anne says:

    I’m italian and my mother always said that when you move into a new home, you give bread (so you would never go hungry), salt (so your food always tastes good), a broom (to sweep away evil) and oil. I never found out what the oil was for so if anyone knows, please comment.

  11. Frann says:

    GREAT. I finally found what my mom and dad gave me the day they were so proud my husband and I got our first and only home. My son soon will have his first and I know exactly what I need …thank you..

  12. Martha says:

    Thank you! When we bought our first home 20 years ago these items were give to us but I couldn’t remember what they meant. Now I know & can pass along the tradition!

  13. Jim says:

    Good stuff. I wonder about the history of these House-warming gifts. This is not the first time I have given bread, salt and wine to a new home owner. I’d love to know how this tradition started. -whatever- Thanks

  14. George says:

    Thank you very much, I was looking for a welcoming gift for my brother’s German bf who’d soon to be joining us in the UK. This isnt exsactly what I was after but is just the right side of a trifitional gesture I was looking for

  15. Kandy Lavin says:

    I have been giving these items in a basket to friends & family for a few years now. I always refresh my memory with your website. Thank you!!

  16. Robin Susnik says:

    Just what I needed and more. I only heard about the wine,bread,broom. The other items were great, now I can fill the basket. Thank you.

    • Greg Bradley says:

      I remember this traditional house warming tradition from It’s A Wonderful Life whenever someone bought a new home from the building and loan. The Baileys would present them with this tradition. I always thought it was cool
      especially coming from Jimmie Stewart and Donna Reid.

  17. Tileigh says:

    Thanks so much! I have been looking for this.

  18. cathy says:

    This is for my granddaughter moving into her first home.I would like to know what the oil, flour and rice represent

  19. Jessica says:

    Olive Oil = May you be blessed with health and well-being.

  20. Sharon Rose says:

    Re the oil: Found this on another site: “May you be blessed with health and well-being.”

  21. Nancy P says:

    Thank you so much

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