Cedar Chest│Hope Chest│
Chest of Dreams
I'd like to see hope chests become popular again, not in the marriage/dowry connection necessarily, but as a symbol of saving for the future and preserving the past. I remember my mother's cedar chest with its distinctive aroma when I'd open the lid. Old baby clothes, my very first doll, pictures, embroidered tea towels (does anyone use embroidered tea towels any more?), things that were important to her and therefore meaningful to me. A family treasure chest. Now so often our important memories are stored in plastic boxes. Nothing wrong with plastic storage boxes, understand, but your grandmother's favorite quilt deserves better, don't you think?
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A Hope Chest is simply a wooden chest or box, a storage unit full of items that have been gathered, perhaps for future use, maybe just as memories. Make the Hope Chest out of cedar and you have a cedar chest. Fill it with memorable items and you have a chest of dreams.
Blanket chests, another good name for them, were a multi-functioning necessity years ago. Colonial homes had no closets, and cellars were not a good place to keep linens because they were so moist. Cedar chests during this time period served to keep blankets, clothing, linens and other household valuables readily available and safely protected. Cedar chests repel insects and resist fungus because of natural oils in the cedar wood. Because of these qualities, cedar chests protect the items stored inside from pests and decay. As an added bonus, this oil with its protective qualities also gives cedar that unmistakable and pleasant scent. Also, cedar chests block out ultra-violet rays that can damage photos and fabrics. And clothing stored flat or folded will keep its shape much better than if you store clothing in a hanging position.
Although you may have plenty of closet space (lucky you!), a cedar chest at the foot of the bed is a fitting place to store extra bedding right where you need it. On chilly nights, warm quilts are quickly retrieved from cedar chests; during warmer months, your linens are neatly stored away. Cedar/blanket chests offer neat storage for seasonal clothing and provide pest-free storage for scrapbooks and other collectibles.
Traditionally, cedar chests were often given as gifts to young women, for a 16th birthday, maybe, or an important school graduation. They were passed down from grandmothers and mothers as cherished heirloom gifts. What a great tradition to reinstate.
A cedar chest should be cared for like any quality furniture piece. Dust with a soft cloth, apply furniture wax or polish carefully, don't expose to constant direct sunlight. Treat it lovingly, as befits the holder of your dreams, memories and family treasures.