Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reviving the Hope Chest...

Old-Fashioned? Yes. Traditional? Somewhat. Popular?, No.

Those were my thoughts as I searched the Internet in vain, looking for some source of...anything about hopechests! Here are some facts I learned which answered a few questions:

  • Other names, 'Dowry chest' 'Cedar chest' 'Glory box' is a chest used to collect items of clothing or household linen, by unmarried young women in anticipation of married life.
  • The collection of a trousseau was a common coming-of-age rite until approximately the 1950s
  • Such chests may have been inherited from their mother or female relatives. They are still a popular gift from woodworking fathers.
Hope Chests is a relatively new concept for me, I didn't know anything about it except from stories of Dowry's traditionally given young women in various cultures. After seeing the biblical value of this tradition, my Dad built my sister and I hope chests of our own almost 3 years ago. On the inside he engraved a scripture. (Mine is Colossians 3:23)

The task: What to fill it with?

It was rather daunting to feel like I had to "fill it up" so it wouldn't look so empty! I was tempted to just follow "what the books say" Anything from dishes and silverware, pictures and kitchen tools to clothing and linens..the list goes on! But at the end of the day, it's yours!
A few trinkets I add- Vintage books on courtship and marriage, articles, letters from my parents, handmade items etc. :)

The past few days my room has been "under construction" as I sift through what I need to get rid of or put into storage. ((I guess I could describe my room as a "Dress-up" room, with a thrifty "closet" devoted to hats, dresses and petticoats and scarves, so that when young girls come to visit, they can dress "prairie" or old fashioned.)) So today, I took the time to go completely through my hope chest. Just to sit on the floor in the midst of chaos, and page through "A guide for young marrieds" c. 1956 or "The care of a house" c.1903 was really nice.

Another thing that intrigues me is the "heirloom" aspect. Dear reader, if you have anything passed down from your mother/grandmother's generation in the family, that is a blessing indeed! Traditions as simple as handwritten recipe cards even seem to have lost popularity. I actually have an older relative who simply refuses to share her award-winning cooking secrets! When did the mentality of taking your "secrets" to the grave become okay? By sharing knowledge, you genuinely bless the younger generation! Hmm, it seems I've gotten off topic...

Hope chests aren't merely a sign of "anticipating to get married someday" but also, in a way, a part of preparing for life as your beloved's helpmeet. Gathering things here and there that will be helpful in the future. The sacred covenant of Marriage shouldn't "turn your world upside down" but be a natural transition. As you can see, my hopechest is practically filled. Because I'm 18, I'll be recieving a larger 'Glory box' this year to use as I continue to prepare to be a future homemaker someday.

"The gift that starts the home."

{ Lane Hope Chest advertisment}


. said...

I had an Hope Chest since my early days of teenager and till I was married. It was my chest of dreams of becaming, one day, wife, mother and homemaker. I am all this.
Thanks God.

Caroline said...

What a neat, inspiring post! My Hope Chest contains mostly things that are special to me: notes of encouragement, letters from my great-grandfather, my favorite books and movies, assorted tea pots and a set of dishes my mom gave me. It is so good to hear about other young women who also find joy in preparing for married life!


ladyscott said...

Besides a hope chest, which I think is a wonderful idea that should be kept alive, I believe a young lady should bring in a nest-egg, too. Too many young couples marry with heavy burdens of debt and add to that debt with the needs of the household. This happened with my own beloved and I. I had credit card debt from a business I started, and hubby had a rather large debt to a new truck he had bought. Pile on top of that a mortgage, etc etc and we're just keeping our heads above the water now, by the grace of God.

A nest-egg can help pay for a home, help with unexpected expenses, give the new bride some financial freedom to feather the nest as she pleases, or could be passed on to help her husband in his vision.


Stacie, A Firefighter's Wife said...

I had a hope chest. It helped a lot!

Anonymous said...

My hope chest was handed down to me from my mom. I put vintage linens, some of my old dolls and toys, my mom's wedding dress, and my great great aunt's tea set. I hope to pass this tradition (and the chest) down to the next generation. You are so's a wonderful tradition.
A side you wear jewelry and/or makeup?
Thanks for another interesting, inspiring post. ~ AJ from Texas

...they call me mommy... said...

My husbands family gives a Hope Chests to each of his sisters as they get is such a lovely tradition!

Thanks for sharing a bit about yours! :)

Kelsey Anne Hoppman said...

I really love the idea of a hope chest! For lack of space in my bedroom, my younger sisters window seat serves as my "hope chest" Most anything creative will work! :)

Emily said...

I always wanted a hope chest growing up - but never had one. I have two daughters and I plan on doing one for each. I think it is such a wonderful thing that can bless a daughter's life!

The Reynolds said...

Mia ~ I enjoyed your post immensely! Have you read the book, "Hope Chest Legacy" by Rebekah Wilson? It is a must have!! I never had a hope chest as a young girl, but my oldest daughter does now. In her book Rebekah gives amany ideas for older Mothers to start a hope chest with the keepsakes from their years of marriage and their children. I am a mother of nine, and a grandmother of one. 2 years ago I received a cedar chest from my father after the death of my mother. I had only recently found out she had the chest and after her death my father told me it was his mother's chest. It went to my mom, and now I have it! I have to refinish it as it went throught their house fire, but what a labor of love it will be! Thanks so much for the post, Mia. I am so blessed to know their are young ladies out there who cherish this legacy.

Anonymous said...

That was alot of good info. Thanks. I have a hopechest that my mom painted and cleaned up for me. I love it. I have cast iron loaf pans, books, some hand embroidered dish towels, tableclothes, baby scarfs, and madame alexander dolls. I also have some wax stamps of two hearts intertwined for my wedding invitations, and a flyer for a store that is dedicated to providing only modest wedding, and bridesmaid dresses. It is so much fun!!! I can barely wait to be a wife and mother, but I concentrate on my life now rather than worrying about thr future. I am so thankful for my brothers and sister. I do almost everything around the house; help the boys with school, teaching laura to read, make meals, and i still have lots to do. I love it even though it gets tiring, because my dream is to have abig beautiful family, and by the time I have my own kids it wont be any different. When people ask me what my dream is I always tell them it is to be a faithful christian, wife, and mother. Nothing else.
It's funny because they are expecting for me to be a singer, model, movie star, etc. But I don't desire those things.
Ok so..sorry for that whole speal, but I really felt like sharing it. Most pof my friends think i am a little odd. I guess I want to tell someone who has the same ambitions.
God Bless,

Lady Farmer said...

It is so good to hear of other young ladies that have kept the tradition of having a hope chest. I didn't have a 'chest' but I used a box for some things that I collected. Both of my girls recieved a wooden chest as teens, from a dear gentleman friend from church who was a woodworker. They weren't created as Hope Chests but they worked just fine. The girls collected youthful treasures, gifts and handed down keepsakes from family and friends.
I have my stepmother's hope chest that is going to my eldest daughter now that she has moved and has the room for it. My youngest, even though now married, has had one made by a local Amish woodcrafter because they are so useful and beautiful! She stores blankets in there!
Thanks for keeping the tradition alive!

Anonymous said...

My cousin started her own hope chest as a very young teen because she had been so impacted by her parents poverty growing up. She had determined not to enter adult life empty handed and struggling, as they had, if she could help it. For Christmas and her birthdays she would ask for things like pots and a dinnerware collection or silverware, towels etc. She had quite the stash to start her own life with when she moved out on her own.

Something I am starting for my dd (16) this year is a recipe collection / homekeeping journal. The housekeeping is the area I struggled with the most as a young mom.

Hosanna said...

Mia - I loved this post! My grandmother gave me her cedar chest for a hopechest when I was a young teenager. I filled it with all sorts of home-keeping items, and when I filled it up, I moved all my home making things to storage boxes and filled the chest with family heirlooms my mother passed to me.
Now I am married, with my own home, and the chest sits, full of these treasured heirlooms in my home. I love to open it and browse through the items once in a while.
If I have a daughter, I will pass the chest to her.
What a fantastic tradition. What a sweet gift from your dad; and home made, too. Lovely.

Dana said...

When I was 16 my parents threw me a Sweet 16 party and every gift I received was for my hopechest. I also had a part time job after school and each week I bought something I thought I would need for my "home" once I was married. I am so glad I did this, it was extremely helpful to my husband and I when we started out. I met my husband shortly before I turned 19 and we were married when I was 22. He has said that if it weren't for my hopechest full of household things we would have never made it. I am 32 now, I have 2 beautiful boys and we are expecting a baby girl this winter. My husband as a hobby enjoys woodworking and we have already planned on making a hopechest for our daughter. For our sons we plan on helping them build up a tool chest before they are of and married- Thank goodness we have many many years to do that as they are only 7 and 3, but we help them build their tools up so they will be prepared to maintain their homes and vehicles when they are husbands and fathers.

My grandma had a hopechest, my mother had a hopechest and I have had a hopechest and I think hopechests are a wonderful tradition and I hope my sons and daughter will continue this wonderful tradition with their children.

Anonymous said...

My hope chest, which I received in 1981 upon my high school graduation, was cedar lined and it had instructions inside that nothing printed (books, letters) should be stored inside. I don't know why, but if yours is cedar lined also, you might want to research that just in case.

Have fun filling your hope chest!


Hannah said...

What a coincidence, I was just going through my hopechest on Tuesday, and considered blogging about it-how funny. My dad built my hopechest for me for my thirteenth birthday, and this year he built one for my sister. It is something that I'll cherish always. Mine is filled with books, dishware, a childs tea set, linens, an enormous quilt that my great grandmother made, and a stack of letters that I was given for my 13th birthday. I hope to keep the tradition going for my future daughters.

Thank you for the email, and the comment!
I would love to exchange letters with you! Every time that I read your blog I laugh at our similarities:).
I will send your gift to you soon, hopefully next week. Every one in my family (except me) is sick, that's why I wasn't able to get it off to you this week.
Love, Your Sister in Christ,

Kelsey Butler said...

Hello Mia! I really enjoy your blog, though I don't remember if I've ever left a comment.My sister and I each received a hope chest when we turned 13.We recieved them from elderly relatives whose family's had still been following that tradition. I am currently working on baby blankets for it.It also has an old fashoned butter mold in it!(I thougt you might be iterested in hearing about that) Kelsey :)

Madison said...

This was a wonderful post Mia! :) I really, really enjoyed it! I have started a hope chest myself... although none of my things are in a chest... they are in a few boxes in our linen closet. :P Although I definitely love the idea of having one.
By the way, your chest is lovely! I love the verse carved into it. :)
Wonderful post!


Aimee Kieffer, aka "Momzoo" said...

I have a hope chest, I got it when I tured 18 from my parents. At the time I filled it with pretty little linens and scrap books. Now that I am married with 5 children it still has scrap books but it also has my wedding veil, the babies christening dresses and their first white blankets among other little treasure I have collected over the years.

I plan on getting my 4 girls their own hope chest one day.

Anonymous said...


As always what a thought provoking post. I was given my grandmother's cedar chest when I was a teenager. I guess at that time I didn't really understand or realize that it was meant to be a hope chest - or if I did I wasn't interested (being a city girl and all). But I did use it to store keepsakes and what not. I still use it today in my bedroom to store linens. As I don't have any daughters I haven't passed it down to anyone yet. Maybe some day. But you are right it is nice to have cherished items that are passed down - even recipes.


Melissa M. said...

I love the look of your room! Your hope chest looks sweet, too. I wish I had one. But I suppose I can still save things without having an actual chest, as I have somewhat been doing. :)

Miss Jen said...

Beautiful, Mia! :)
My hope chest is one of my most
treasured processions!
Have you ever read "The Hope Chest~ A Legacy of Love" by Rebekah Wilson?

Love~ Jenny

I LOVE your Bible verse in your
hope chest!!! :>)

Paulina said...

I am very intruiged by hopechests although I do not own one myself. But it's a good idea!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I have a favor to ask of you. Could u hop on over to my latest post and comment on what you think of it and what I said about birth control?
God bless,

Shelley said...

Hello dear Mia,I so enjoyed your post. I am 50 yrs and I find it such a pleasure to come here and read your daily post. My mom had a cedar chest that belong to her mother before her. She kept all her keepsakes in it that were from my brothers,my sister and I's childhood,along with old letters,Valentines, and things my dad had given her over the years. I remember asking to look through it so many times when I was younger and how much joy it gave me to do so. My mom is now 77 and she emptied her chest and passed it to one of my brothers. You have encourage me to start my own hopeful chest of sorts. Not to prepare for marriage as,I have been long since attached for close to 35 years but,to store away some things close to my heart for returning to visit from time to time as I reach different seasons in my own life. Thank you dear,for this sweet post.

God bless

SouthernNight said...

I so wanted a hope chest when I was a girl, but was never able to have one. I was expected to have a career, since I was so "smart" and being a mom and homemaker was not "good" enough for me. Oh, how I wish I had followed my own heart instead of my mother's and everyone elses' wishes. I'm in my forties now, and I have several memory boxes that I keep of precious memories--things made by my children, special clothing items, etc.
You are a lovely girl, and I so enjoy your blog. It is so uplifting, a ray of sunshine! Please, stay the way you are, NEVER try to follow the world. I hope you fill your hope chest with many wonderful things that will serve you well for the future!
Take care and God bless,

Susan A. Reed said...

Mia, you are just the sweetest young woman! I had a hope chest when I was a teenager and loved filling it with linens and dishes etc....when I was 25 and not married I decided to take it all out and use it! Good thing I did that as I never did marry and I am 56. God choose me to be single and I have a great life and have lots of wonderful sentimental treasures in my house passed down to me. I love your blog and like I have said before, you would make any Mama proud to have you for a daughter. May God continue to bless you! love from Susan in Minnesota

Mia said...

Thank you all for your delightful comments! Truly encouraging :)

For those who asked about "Hope chest Legacy", yes we do have that book and it was a great help in the beginning of starting a hope chest. I didn't do things quite in the "right" order though :)

Yes, a "nest egg" is something I have incorporated. All of the funds I add to my savings account are intended for my life after courtship/marriage :) Although not "abundant" in any form, I do like the idea of easing the financial burden for my (future) beloved.
Ms. Dana,
When we recieved our hopechests, my father had also built my brother a "tool chest" with rope handles and a lock!!
AJ from Texas/Anonymous,
I don't wear jewelry for the most part.. I do not wear makeup at home...when we go out, I do wear a little mascara though (I'm trying to break out of this's hard!

In Christ,

sarah said...

Hopechests are such wonderful things! I've put special some books in mine for my children to read, a mixer, some clothes, and a few other things. A friend of mine doesn't even have a hopechest, but already she has started to save things for when she does get one.

Anonymous said...

I love looking at your blog.My Uncle made mine for Christmas and it is almost filled to the top. Fill the chest as if it was your heart.
a sister in Christ,

Anonymous said...

Oh yes! I had a "Hope Chest" I think I started mine when I was sixteen. I was married at nineteen, and it did come in handy. I collected baby clothes, silver wear, towels, dishes, cast iron cook wear, and we are still using the cast iron, dishes, and silver wear.
Wow I hadn't thought about my hope chest in a long time. My Hope chest was a cedar chest my grandmother had, then my Mum, and she gave it to me on my sixteenth birthday. I still have it, it's filled with baby clothes for our wee little one due next month!
Thank-you Mia! I enjoy reading your blog so much!
Rhonda from Northern Minnesota

Dreamer said...

It's so cool to see all these ladies that kept a hope chest. I did too. For graduation my dad bought me an antique cedar chest. I filled it with dishes, recipes, brassware (candlesticks, etc.), tea towels, and anything I found on sale or at garage sales. I think it would be nice to work on a wedding quilt for the hope chest, but I didn't start my wedding quilt until I was engaged and its still not done. We celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary this year!

family tree said...

I had a hope chest. I filled it over several years until I got married! It was so fun to unpack it in our home and remember all the memories that surrounded each item. There was everything from books, candles, photos, china to even children's items like bottles and story books! Collect a little of everything!

Mia said...

I really like the "wedding quilt" idea! I've always wanted to try quilting, but I think making one for that purpose is extra special!


Summer :) said...

Mia, what a wonderful profession you are declaring!! :) I smiled really big when I read your blog. My mother helped me and my sister start our own hope chests when we were younger and I am still adding to it! :) Thank you for what you are doing. :)

Elizabeth S said...

I recieved my Hope chest when I graduated from high school 35 years ago. Through 2 marriages and many moves it has always been with me.

Now it is filled with precious baby clothes, old photos, keepsakes from my grandma, and treasures that my now grown sons made with tiny hands of long ago. In each treasure is the heart of a loved one. Someday I hope to have a grandaughter to pass it on to.
Bless you for keeping precious treasures alive.

Anonymous said...

It is very interesting for me to read the article. Thank you for it. I like such topics and everything connected to this matter. BTW, why don't you change design :).

Anonymous said...

It was rather interesting for me to read the blog. Thanks for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Sincerely yours
Timm Clade

Sabina said...

I know this might be the opposite of what you'd expect from most liberal feminists, but I 100% support this idea, along with more women getting back into the traditional feminine crafts. Guys are so stereotypically viewed as the "contributers" to a household, but being able to give back in a relationship in a tangible way, to have a reciprocal exchange in marriage is wonderful. On top of that, the traditional women's arts used in crafting the contents is very empowering. I never really understood the thinking of so many feminists telling themselves "The only way to prove that I, as a woman, am equal with men is to dress like a man and reject everything feminine." It's just so silly and self-defeating.

Christina @ The Hope Chest said...

I think it's a great idea! I have saved things from my great-grandmothers and grandmothers over the years in case I ever need them (I'm no longer young!) and I wish I had a beautiful chest to keep them in. :-)