Hope Chests

 Young maiden, how many of you have a hope chest? If you have never heard of this wonderful old tradition, it is worth looking into. Hope chests have always intrigued me. As a child, my mother kept hers in my room and used it mainly as a blanket chest. I had no idea what it was until I was older and she passed it on to me. Then I began my own journey to refill it with items to use someday in my own home.

A Lane Cedar Chest. The classic American hope chest.

Hope chests seem to be somewhat shrouded in mystery, though they need not be. Their basic function and design is simple. In the olden days, it was a place for a young woman, as she grew, to place items she had made and would need to set up her own household someday.  However, the very special nature of the what a hope chest meant served to elevate a humble wooden chest to a more special place in a young lady’s life.  It was less about a fancy trousseau and more about showing that the bride was prepared to be mistress of her own household. It was a practical way to keep safe items of special memory and use and as a way to show the skills a young woman had learned and needed. Very often it might have held all that the young couple had to start life with!

What kind of items go in a home chest in this modern day? Gone are the days when we need to have such things as washboards, wool carding paddles or huge iron cooking pots, so what exactly can a modern young maiden put in her hope chest? I would like to recommend a wonderful book called The Hope Chest by Rebekah Wilson that gives a wonderful history of the hope chest and ideas for what to include in your own. Try to think of what you would like or need in your  future home and that will be a good start! My own personal hope chest items have become so numerous, I now have several large durable plastic tubs full of items! Here is a little list of some things in my own hope chest to inspire you: Heirloom silver, heirloom china, wooden rolling pin, cookbooks, pots and pans, sewing patterns, sewing box with all needed items, children’s books, aprons, measuring spoons, hand crocheted items.

One word of caution I would direct here to you, young maidens. Make sure that you are keeping your eyes on God always and never cause your hope chest and all it holds to become an idol. Marriage is good to prepare for, but marriage does not begin your life. As you fill it, make sure that you know how to use each item to best advantage. If you include pots, pans or cooking items, do you know how to cook and bake efficiently? If you fill a sewing box, can you sew? How about knit or crochet? The value of a hope chest and the items therein, is having the skills to use each one! That is really what a hope chest is all about.

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