A Bit on Hope Chests

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What’s a hope chest? A hope chest is a chest, normally made out of moth-repelling cedar, that an unmarried woman stores items such as linen in anticipation for marriage. Girls store a wide variety of things in them, however! In mine, I have mostly kitchen items – as the kitchen will be my favorite room in my future house. 😉 Today I have to share with you a bit of the history behind hope chests and a interview with one of my very dear friends!

Hope chests, also known as a dowry chest, cedar chest, trousseau chest, and glory box, seem to have originated from Egypt. Among the 300,000 documents in the Cairo Genizah are several marriage contracts, nearly all mentioning a “dower chest”. These accounts are from the ninth to nineteenth centuries.

Later during the Renaissance, we find elaborate chests in Italy during the fifteenth to sixteenth centuries. These formed a part of dynastic marriages and often were more valuable than the contents!

In Holland and Germany, we see Dutch kasts and German schranks, both of which are tall, stand-up shelve chests, intended for use after marriage. Finally, we see long traditions of beautiful hope chests from Scandinavian and German immigrants in Pennsylvania. The Amish had traditions of a plainly built chest but with copiously painted decoration. (research from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hope_chest)

For something new, I decided to interview my dear friend Hannah. She’s eighteen and has not one, but two full hope chests that she has been filling since she was twelve. I asked her a lot of questions, and her answers were so good I really felt like I couldn’t take out any! Thus, long interview!

Where did you find your hope chests? My first hope chest was a gift from my Aunt, the second I found at a local thrift store (pictured above).

What motivated you to start a hope chest? The first place I ever heard of hope chests was from my dear friend who had an older sister with one.  I’ve always wanted to be a wife and a mother, ever since I was very young, so when I heard about collecting items to use in your future home, I was so excited.  I went home and started putting together a hodge-podge of things in a rubber-maid tub. :)  Needless to say, the plastic tub was not very attractive, so I was motivated to get something a little prettier and more durable.

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What are some of the items in your chests?  The contents of my hope chest vary widely.  Some of the items I have include a set of dishes, various mixing bowls, doilies and tablecloths, a small collection of handmade pottery mugs, marriage books, children’s books, potholders, and a twin-sized quilt I crafted for my future daughter (Lord willing).  I even have a baby gown in there.

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What do you hope to add to your chests in the future?  In the future, I would love to keep adding to my dish and mug collections.  They are probably some of my favorite things in there, and I really hope to use them in my home someday.  I also wouldn’t mind adding some home decor (Shabby Chic, please!) as I come across it.

Do you randomly add to your chests or do you purchase items with them in mind?  There is really no rhyme or reason to how or what I add to my hope chests.  If I come across something that I love for the home, but I cannot use it it my bedroom, I will usually purchase it and pop it in there.  There have been several times when Mom and I have debated over who should be able to purchase something kitchen-related. :)  She usually wins, since she has a kitchen and I do not.  Haha.

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Do you think that hope chests are a “lost art”?  Yes, I do think that hope chests are a lost art. Sure, girls may have a “wedding board” on Pinterest, but that is not really the same thing.  I love keeping the old tradition alive.

What will you do with your hope chests after you are married? When I get married, I would love to use my hope chests as coffee tables, or place them at the foot of a bed as a blanket chest.

Do you ask for hope chest items for your birthday or do you primarily collect for them yourself?  When I first began collecting for my hope chest, I did ask for different items for birthdays.  That was how I completed my 8-place dinner setting of dishes.  Currently, I don’t receive hope chest items as gifts; I usually keep an eye out for them when I’m in thrift stores or antique malls.

Do you think your future husband will be able to carry them out of your parents’ house himself or will he need help with them? 😀  My future husband would have to be a hunk to be able to carry my hope chests. 😉  Actually, the smaller one is probably something a strong man could lift, but the larger Lane chest from my Aunt is definitely a two-man job.

What do you hope to achieve by filling your hope chests? Good question!  I would say that my end goal is to go into marriage ahead of the game.  I hope to be able to set up my home without having to go out and purchase (or register for) everything I need.  Hopefully, when I begin housekeeping, I will be able to use most of the stuff in my hope chests.

Do you prefer to put in antique dishes or new dishes? I prefer antique dishes.  Hands down.  I do prefer new mixing bowls and kitchen tools, though.  My style is very eclectic.  :)

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Do you wish there were more young single girls who had hope chests?  I think more than wishing more single girls had hope chests, I wish more single girls had a desire to follow God’s plan for marriage.  A hope chest will not give you a perfect marriage, well-behaved children, or a joyful home.  Following God’s plan and honoring Him will.

Thank you so much, Hannah, for letting me interview you! I enjoyed reading your answers immensely. And, thanks for taking the pictures! All of the pictures in this post were taken by Hannah of her hope chest and a few of the items in it.

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