Right now, I bet some of you are asking yourselves, “what the hell is a glory box.” (the rest of you, get your minds out of the gutter. LOL). It’s an Australian term for a dowry chest or a trousseau. I grew up calling them ‘hope chests’ but I really, really like the term “glory box” the best. I had one and someone was asking me about it over the holidays so I decided to write this article.
Traditionally, a dowry chest (or glory box ^^) was a large, occasionally ornate chest in which a young girl collected items in preparation for her marriage. It could be a sign of wealth and status, though even the poorest in many places tended to have simpler ones. It belonged to the woman, and contained items to help her start her new household. In Germany, sometimes a cupboard was used instead of a chest. I’m absolutely in favor of this custom.
I’m a generation away from arranged marriage and technically, have an arranged marriage myself (I would not be against this custom at all provided the couple had the final say so on whether or not to marry. No one should be forced and I wasn’t nor were my Lithuanian grandparents.). Now I had already set up a household for many years by the time I married and I have to say, having a glory box was a godsend. I did not have to scramble to get a running house together. Obviously, I favor this not only for marriage but for a single woman setting up a household too. By the time I bought my home, I had linens, blankets, pots, pans, kitchen knives, silverware, a tea set, and two sets of dishware–you name it, most of it neatly tucked away for safekeeping while I lived in an apartment. If I had a daughter, I would absolutely get her started early putting together a trousseau and should we ever have functional polytheistic, tribal communities, I hope this custom is one that is carried over (suck it, modernists. I also support dowry and bride price – gifts from bride’s family to the groom and groom’s family to the bride). It is eminently practical. I remember when I visited Lithuanian as a teenager and met one of my cousins. Her family already had her entire wedding ensemble and a goodly portion of what she’d need to start a home tucked away for her, even though she wasn’t currently seeing anyone. It’s practical.
Of course, with the glory box, goes a knowledge of household skills: cooking, maintaining a home, sewing, basic first aid, finance and budgeting and I very much think this ought to be taught both at home and in school for both boys and girls. These are essential skills. I wish that along with Civics and Government ( and I personally think we ought to have to pass both before we’re allowed to vote just like one has to pass Drivers Ed before being allowed to drive), Home-Ec and Shop ought to be required for everyone and the former ought to include budgeting and basic finance. It’s a horrible thing to go out into the world with absolutely no idea of how to function as a competent human being. You can have all the stuff in the world but if you don’t know how to function and care for yourself and those you love, the stuff isn’t really worth much. (I can cook and handle finance and first aid like a boss but never learned to sew, something I deeply regret. I can embroider quite well and do basic repairs, quilt a little by hand, but that’s about it. I also wish I’d had more training on how to handle basic repairs around the home).
So, my friend was asking me what typically went into a trousseau. In the medieval and renaissance periods, it could involve the woman’s entire wardrobe but I don’t see the point of that today. I think it should be and remain practical (though during the renaissance, that WAS practical!). Now this isn’t meant to be compiled all at once and some things one will want to wait until closer to the point where the woman sets up a home to acquire (like a medicine kit – I’m a firm believer that one should have more than basic first aid skills as an adult) but many of these things can be acquired and tucked away from the time a girl is small. Traditionally, a young girl made many of the linens and such herself and if one can, I think that’s great. I’m a firm believer in teaching children young, giving them chores, and helping them to acquire life skills. I have very little patience with modern child rearing methods, but that’s an article for another time.
What goes into a trousseau? – this was the question my friend was most curious about so I’ll tell you what went into mine (and again, this was acquired over more than a decade. This isn’t an ‘all at once’ purchase!).
- Quilts and blankets, comforters, comforter covers
- Table cloths (I inherited some lovely ones), dish towels, bed linens, towels (I think I had two sets, though I ended up hating the color of one set—one’s tastes do change)
- Two pillows (I had four)
- Household medical kit (this I purchased as I moved to my house and I update it regularly)
- Full tool kit (I’ve continued to add to mine)
- Basic dishes (I had one regular set and was gifted with a fancy set)
- Silverware (I’d get this close to the time one is set to move either out on one’s own or into the marital home. Tastes and styles change. I inherited a set.)
- A couple of cooking pots of varying sizes
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Mixing spoons, spatula, whisker, a good set of mixing bowls
- A good-sized cast iron pan
- Bread pans (this is all assuming one knows how to cook. I really do think both boys and girls should by the time they leave home).
- Basic set of glasses and cups
- Crock pot
- casserole dish — i inherited a couple.
- I had a rice cooker gifted to me when I moved into my home and I have to say: OMG this thing is amazing. Get one. Lol
- Tea set (teapot, sugar and cream bowls, tray, now I’d include an electric kettle. These things are awesome)
- A good apron
- Salt and pepper shakers, a butter dish
- A good sewing kit (I’ve continued to add to mine as I learn new skills, use up the threads, etc.)
- Any heirloom jewelry (this was a traditional part of a trousseau. I had a few pieces when I set up my home)
- A good recipe book or box containing family recipes and enough to get you started cooking for yourself and your family (when my brother married, his wife wanted to be a housewife but hadn’t had much experience cooking. I took index cards, hand wrote all my favorite recipes and filled up a recipe box for her. That was one of my wedding gifts).
- Hand mixer
- A good set of kitchen knives (at least a butcher knife and a paring knife. I mostly use my butcher knife for everything – I took some cooking classes when younger and that’s what the chef suggested and it works for me—but it’s nice to have a utility knife, a paring knife, a bread knife, etc. too. I’ve not included weapons here, because frankly, I think every householder should know how to defend him/herself and should have at least a hunting knife and a shotgun in the home as a matter of course).
- Money. If one is encouraged to tuck away part of one’s allowance, holiday monies from the time one is young, and a tiny part of one’s salary as a teen and adult, this takes care of itself. A money market account or CD, as well as a bit of cash tucked away in the chest itself (always good to have a bit of cash on hand, but not too much: money should be put to work for a person. Keeping too much at home means it’s not earning interest) is an incredibly useful part of a glory box. It becomes an emergency fund. Tuck it away and forget about it. This, by the way, is why I think most weddings are insane. Why on earth spend thousands of dollars on a one-day ceremony when that money could be put in a CD and the married couple start their lives solvent? Wedding/engagement rings and honey moons are awesome – it’s the only parts of the wedding nonsense I’d keep, but a wedding dress that costs upwards of five thousand dollars, expensive reception, crazy ceremony…it’s financial lunacy. (Of course, I also favor a marriage contract as part of the marriage negotiations…). I think part of a good trousseau is a savings account and a bit of cash carefully tucked away, money that belongs to the woman only – as an emergency fund, as padding, as a nest egg, as whatever it needs to be used for. It gives one options. I wish I’d been better at doing this as a young person. This is one it took me awhile and no small degree of pain to learn.
The first three items, if one is handy with a needle can be made by the girl herself. I didn’t have those skills (I can make pillow cases, pillows granted, basic nine-patch quilts. I could probably do an afghan if I had to – I don’t enjoy crochet. At the time I moved into my home though, I didn’t have those skills, only basic embroidery). I always think home-made items are best. I don’t think quality in commercial items is necessarily what it used to be and I’d much rather have something hand-made than commercially bought. It shows both skill and industry.
Also, obviously not all of this fit into a hope chest. The larger items were kept in boxes in my closet. I still considered them part of the trousseau though. I suppose these days, wedding showers are supposed to provide some of this stuff, but really, why not prepare to be a competent, functional adult ahead of time? (And no, mine was never as fancy as the chests pictured here — i wish!. It was a large Lane Cedar Chest).
There, that’s my fluff post for the day. I’m off to do some academic crap and also to prepare for a day of rituals on New Year’s Eve. Have a good holiday, folks. I wish you all well.