Housewarming Gift Giving and Jewish Tradition
Bread, Salt & Sugar--Why?
Over the years a gift of bread, salt and wine has emerged as the traditional Jewish housewarming gift. What are the roots of this? While there are several theories, many believe that this custom originated as an old Russian folk custom. During the period, 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. Newly married peasants were honored, 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 giver’s wish that the recipient’s pantry will always be "full.”
Another idea behind this custom is that since bread and salt are such critical ingredients to any meal, it is a friendly gesture to bring some to “make a party” with the new neighbors. Wine also certainly falls into this category, particularly for Shabbat (the Sabbath).
Favorite Jewish Housewarming Traditions--Kosher Food Baskets and Judaica
Currently, the "bread, salt, sugar" tradition is as strong as ever. It is tradition to bring bread, salt, sugar and wine to the new Jewish home to afford the new residents the following blessings:
-“Bread so that you shall never know hunger”
-“Salt, so your life shall always have flavor”
-“Sugar and so your life shall always have sweetness”
In all things Jewish, food is a staple and welcome for every occasion, especially housewarming. To bestow best wishes and good luck in the new home, a food gift of traditional (and delectable!) items is recommended. Challah, wine, cookies, rugelach, cakes, babka, candies, chocolates and nuts are all excellent choices.
In addition to food gifts, Judaica including artwork and ritual items such as mezuzot, Shabbat Candlesticks, and holiday items are also appropriate gifts.
Jewish homes are identifiable by their beautiful mezuzot, found on the doorframe of nearly every Jewish home worldwide. A mezuzah (Hebrew for doorpost in honor of where the mezuzah is placed) is a long narrow case that contains the "Shema," the most holy Jewish prayer. Mezuzot come in many shapes and sizes, made out of a huge variety of materials. They may be traditional and brass or contemporary and glass. They may have Hebrew words on the outside (like “Shalom” or “Chai”) or just symbols, like the dove of peace, the tree of life, or a husband and wife. They may have artwork representing a story from the Torah, such as Noah’s Ark.