Crémaillère [kʀemajɛʀ] nf – trammel (chem.), rack (rail).
Etymology: from the Old French cramail, from Latin cramaculus (rack), from the Greek kremasti (suspend).
The French word crémaillère came up last night when I mentioned that I’m planning to have a housewarming party, the French equivalent of which is pendaison de crémaillère and pendre la crémaillère means “to have a house-warming party”. This word also features in the phrase for a rack or cog railway: chemin de fer à crémaillère, and engranage/direction à crémaillère is rack-and-pinion gear/streering.
The French version of the housewarming party originates in the Middle Ages when people cooked on open fires with pots suspended from a crémaillère (trammel). The crémaillère was usually the last thing to be installed in a new house, and once it was, people held a party to thank family, friends and all those who had helped them with the new house. This was known as a pendaison de crémaillère (hanging of the trammel) [source].
According to Wikipedia, the custom of having a housewarming party dates back to pre-central heating times when guests brought firewood and built fires in all the fireplaces in a new house in order to warm it. This was thought to chase away any evil spirits in the vicinity, which liked to take up residence in unoccupied houses. Apparently there was a custom of bringing gifts of bluebirds, which were thought to bring good luck and happiness to the new house.
Traditional housewarming gifts in countries such as Austria and Russia apparently include bread (to never go hungry), salt (so life is always full of flavour, or for long life), and a broom (to sweep away troubles) [source].
Do you have any housewarming traditions?
Do you have a party, hold a party, throw a party, or use another verb?