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Pendre la Crémaillère

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Pendre la Crémaillère

If you are invited to a pendaison de crémaillère, you may be surprised to find out this has nothing to do with hanging anyone. And not even eating cream of any kind. The expression literally translates to trivet hanging, and is French for housewarming party. It is often shortened to crémaillère only, so you might hear: Je fais ma crémaillère ce soir! – My housewarming is tonight!

Anglophones beware: crémaillère is pronounced cray-mah- yayr - click here for sound. If the second syllable isn't clear enough, you're at high risk of hanging la crémière - i.e. the milkmaid.

Origin

The phrase originated in the Middle Ages and is still commonly used to this day. In fact la crémaillère is only used in this expression today.

In former times, once the construction of a house was completed, it was tradition to invite everyone who participated in building the house for a meal. Hosts then cooked a meal in a heavy pot that they would hang on a notched trivet, or rack, in the fireplace.

This cooking mechanism was the last thing to be set up in the house and turned it into a home for good.

What does a pendaison de crémaillère look like today?

Housewarming parties are usually thrown within 3 or 4 months of moving in, and are either a party or a dinner in the form of a barbecue or drinks and buffet.

There are two types of people when it comes to crémaillères: those who wait until they have furnished and decorated their new home, and those who'd rather have their pendaison among cardboard boxes, for a more authentical feel. As long as no one hangs the crémière...

Examples

Faut compter trois semaines, un mois avant qu'on puisse pendre la crémaillère. Claude Sarraute in "Mademoiselle s'il vous plaît."
It will take 3 weeks, a month before we can have a housewarming party.

Je suis invitée à pendre la crémaillère chez mes nouveaux voisins.
I’ve been invited to a house-warming by my new neighbors.

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