Turning a House into a Home
By Felicia Ferguson | Photo by Brenna Kneiss
Purchasing a house is an exciting time. Hopes and dreams intermingle with the practicalities of hiring moving companies and changing schools. Within those four walls are a blank canvas and a fresh start that belongs solely to the new owners (well, and maybe the mortgage company). They can’t wait to make it their own in more ways than signatures on a deed. But once the boxes are unpacked, the walls are painted, and the accessories are in place, there is still one thing that can be done to turn a house into a home.
It is a house blessing.
House blessings may not be discussed as part of the home construction or sales paperwork, but they are practices rooted in centuries of tradition across many faiths and cultures. When one thinks of the word “house,” an inviting, safe place where a family resides might come to mind. According to Young’s Bible Dictionary, a “blessing” is a request for divine favor or gifts from God or man. House blessings, then, request goodwill for the home and family. They are an active practice of entrusting it and the owners to the protection of a higher authority. Think of it as an extra line item on an insurance policy—but you don’t call Allstate for this coverage.
House blessings may be an object, an activity, or both. They may also be more than a one-time event.
Objects of blessing are the most prominent type. Displays of framed or stenciled Bible verses are popular in Christian homes—especially those for whom farmhouse chic is more than a passing nod. One of the most famous verses is Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It not only consecrates a home space, but it also proclaims the family’s devotion and commitment to God. Another trend is to set out an entry doormat with a statement of blessing printed on it. Framed prayers, icons, or crosses may be displayed throughout the home as well.
But a true house blessing is something altogether different. Depending upon your faith confession or affiliation, house blessings may be formal rituals or simple prayers. Formal ceremonies are found in Jewish, Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox traditions, while nondenominational believers have created their own routines. Even Buddhist and Hindu faiths have house blessing customs.
In Jewish homes, a formal ceremony to place a mezuzah and establish the house as a Jewish home is performed. The mezuzah is a small case or container that is attached to the doorpost of every living space. Inside is a parchment inscribed with scriptures from the Torah. Its purpose is to remind the members of the household of their commitment to operating by a particular set of rules, rituals, and beliefs. Another more recent trend in blessing a Jewish home has been displaying the Birkat Habayit. Although the origins are unknown and the Hebrew used is a modern dialect, the sentiments offer blessings and peace to the family as well as visitors in their home.
In Christian denominations, formal house blessings are performed by a pastor or priest. The owners may invite other family members and friends to participate in the ceremony. The pastor or priest will lead them through the house while praying blessings over each room. Nondenominational believers will also pray over the new home. Christian blessings may include writing Scripture on the walls behind pictures or furniture. Or, if the house is under construction, verses may be written on the studs, in the foundation, or on the subfloor.
Now, therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord God, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.—2 Samuel 7:29 NKJV
Catholic and Orthodox faiths will often include the sprinkling of holy water or the diffusing of incense during the procession. For Catholics, the application of holy water when entering a church is a sign of recommitting to their baptism. When used in the house blessing, it is a sign of recommitting to their family. Relatives will often provide religious symbols or icons to display in the home, representing a continuation of the Catholic faith.
Buddhists and Hindus also perform house blessing ceremonies. These Eastern rituals include requests to protect the family. However, they are more centered on the owners’ financial prosperity and warding off evil spirits than declaring allegiance to their deity. Hindu blessings vary greatly but are always performed before the owners move in. A priest will chant mantras, and a cow is led through all of the rooms. The ceremony ends in the kitchen with the boiling of a portion of the cow’s milk. Buddhist traditions may involve sprinkling water throughout the home and then tying a string around it. A variety of food items will also be incorporated and, in some countries, the blessing may be performed twice a year.
Despite differences in beliefs, faiths across the spectrum perform house blessing rituals as a way to change a house into a home. But what if you don’t have a faith community? What if you’re not sure about all of the traditional practices and rituals? Can you bless your house yourself? Absolutely! As the owner, feel free to follow any one of the above traditions—or even create your own. All that’s required for a house blessing is asking for and declaring a higher power’s protection over your home and family and then acknowledging his authority. Because despite the variety in house blessings, there is a common thread: staking a claim for the family in the new home.
By doing so, the new owners can change the spiritual atmosphere and turn a building of walls, plumbing, and electricals into a home of life, love, and safety. So, before you unwrap Great-Grandma Ida’s prized Fostoria punch bowl or assemble the latest Swedish import from IKEA, take a few minutes to settle into the home on a spiritual level.
It’s insurance of a supernatural kind.
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Felicia Ferguson holds master’s degrees in healthcare administration and speech-language pathology but is currently a freelance writer and author. She finds inspiration in lakes and gardens and is blessed to have both at her home in Destin, Florida. More details can be found at FeliciaFergusonAuthor.com.