Welcome Home: Exploring Homeownership Traditions in Different Cultures
Welcome Home: Exploring Homeownership Traditions in Different Cultures
Buying a home is likely the largest financial milestone in your life, providing a sense of accomplishment, stability, and security. It’s a significant step to mark a new chapter in life and can be celebrated and honoured in various ways, often depending on your religion and culture.
We had the opportunity to speak with Canadians from varying cultures and religions to gain a deeper understanding of their traditions and values surrounding homeownership, in regard to both buying a home and when someone else does. Here’s what they had to say.
Blessing the home
While some may focus on unpacking and organizing their belongings, others choose to approach the move-in process in a more spiritual way. In some religions, it’s common practice to have a home blessed as a way to cleanse the space of negative energy.
Nickayla Mackenzie, from Toronto, Ontario, grew up in a Caribbean and Catholic household and says for new homeowners, it’s customary to first have the house blessed, especially if someone lived there prior to you.
“In our culture, you would have your priest come to the house and have them bless it for you,” she shared. “Then afterward, it’s customary to have food and enjoy people’s company to bring new positive energy into the home.”
Alissa Banns, of Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, echoed a similar tradition. “In Southeast Asian households, it’s common to have a family’s priest come to the house to bless it.”
The custom of having a priest come into one’s home includes having a house blessing either before moving in or a few weeks after. This ceremony includes having family members in attendance to mark the special occasion.
Nick Ortega explained in Filipino households, “the first thing that must go into a home is a crucifix so God can come into the home first.”
Traditions and superstitions
When it comes to moving into a new home, certain cultures and religions have long standing traditions and superstitions that are believed to bring good luck and ward off negative energy. For example, in feng shui, a Chinese practice, the placement of furniture and objects within the home is believed to influence the flow of energy and bring harmony to the space.
In a recent episode of the Canadian Real Estate Association’s REAL TIME podcast, Canadian media figure, eTalk correspondent, and co-host of The Social, Lainey Lui, discussed how her checklist for buying her home was based on Chinese feng shui principles.
“We told our REALTOR® here’s our budget, here’s what we’re thinking, here’s the size but one thing you can’t show us, we don’t want to see a home with a staircase that goes right out the front door, [or] faces the front door because I can’t live here,” said Lui, noting her mother told her “[…] you cannot buy a house where the staircase faces the front door because what that means is your luck will fall down the stairs and tumble out the door.
“For a lot of Chinese families […] they don’t even want a tree on the front lawn because that’s considered a blocker. That was one of the things, too, where [my mom] was like, ‘You really shouldn’t have obstructions in front of the house.’”
In Judaism, it’s customary for the front entrance way of the door to have a mezuzah (a small casing with a roll of parchment inside that has two biblical passages written), explained Hayley Greenberg, who grew up Jewish Ottawa, Ontario.
“Some people will place a mezuzah on every doorway in the home except for the bathroom,” she said. “This reminds those who live there of their connection to God and their heritage. As a child, it was also explained to me that the scrolls bless you when you pass through the doorway.”
Traditions can extend to the features of the home, as well. In Jewish kitchens, there are often two of everything in order to keep kosher.
“Two sinks, two fridges, two ovens, two sets of dishes, two sets of pots and pans etc,” Greenberg explained. “Dairy meals and meat meals are never prepared in the same space or eaten off the same dishes.”
A new home indicates a new start, which is why there’s a Korean superstition to “leave your old broom and dustpan behind.”
“It’s thought these items will bring bad luck from your previous home and sweep away any good luck you may have in your new one,” explained Joe Bae, a REALTOR® in North Vancouver, British Columbia. “Instead, it’s best to start fresh with new cleaning tools.”
Bae also told us there are also superstitions in Korean culture about selling a home.
“If a property isn’t selling, it’s believed hanging a pair of scissors upside down by the entry door can help cut your ties with the house and make it easier to sell. In fact, I tried this out when I was selling my own home that wasn’t selling several years ago and the property sold soon after!”
Keyah Kavoosi, a Toronto-based REALTOR® with Rare Real Estate, has dealt with his share of superstitious clients. He said he’s worked with clients who didn’t want to look at any homes with addresses featuring the number four, or lots that were irregularly shaped due to the fear of karma.
“I had clients who also preferred the number eight in the home number and in the purchase price and clients who didn’t want an older unit because people had lived in it already,” added Kavoosi.
In some Latin American cultures, it’s common to place an aloe plant outside of the home to ward off negative energy as the plant is believed to absorb bad vibes similar to a sponge.
Ortega explained some common traditions in Filipino households include having rice and holy water in the home, saying “the rice is to suggest that you’re never hungry and the holy water is used to ward off bad spirits.” Additionally, placing coins in every corner of the home is a common practice to ensure financial prosperity.
Another tradition is the burning of sage, commonly referred to as ‘smudging.’ This originates from an ancient spiritual practice in Native American tradition aimed at eliminating negative energy out of a house. Reece Rivard, a REALTOR® with Royal LePage Brookside Realty in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, says he’s worked with clients who have used sage as a way to cleanse their new home.
When it comes to housewarming gifts, what’s given can vary across cultures and may include symbolic items that represent good luck, prosperity, or hospitality. In Japan, people traditionally give housewarming presents, like a new coin to represent wealth, a straw broom to sweep away any evil, and wine or sake to bring happiness into the new household.
“When it comes to housewarming gifts, Koreans often give toilet paper and soap,” Bae told us. “These items are associated with cleanliness and purification, which are important values in Korean culture. Additionally, toilet paper is seen as a symbol of easy good luck, as it rolls out effortlessly, while soap represents multiplying happiness, as bubbles grow and expand.”
In Judaism, there are common housewarming gifts to give new homeowners to set their home up for a prosperous future.
“The most common are bread, so they never experience hunger; salt, for a flavorful life; sugar, for sweetness,” Greenberg shared. “A houseplant is also often given because it brings growth and life into a new home.”
In Western cultures, practical gifts such as kitchenware or home décor items are popular, while Banns said in Southeast Asian cultures, it’s customary to bring a gift to the house, such as money, the first time you visit as purchasing a home is seen as a huge accomplishment.
Regardless of cultural background, it’s important to approach homeownership with respect, empathy, and an understanding of the unique opportunities it presents.
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