Actually, from now, until the end of next month, all kinds of boxes will be opening. In fact, I guess that it’s pretty accurate to say that we’re entering the official box-opening season. Just for starters, there are all of the silverware boxes, cedar chests, and oak chests, from which people will be retrieving their table services and holiday napery. Beyond those wooden storage boxes, however, millions of people will be digging into gift boxes, before the end of the year.
Naturally, most will be giving, as well as receiving, at least, one of those boxes, which, you can bet, will be as carefully chosen as the presents that they will hold. On the other hand, in many instances, boxes will be given as gifts; and they will be deeply appreciated and cherished, perhaps, for decades to come. Some of the timeless favorites include cedar chests, cherry chests, jewelry boxes, jewelry chests, steamer trunks, and armoires.
There’s no denying the significance of boxes; after all, they play very special roles in our lives. Not only can they be among our most prized possessions, but they are often charged with storing, and protecting, some of our best-loved belongings. Usually, the things that we entrust to them are irreplaceable keepsakes, such as family photographs, quilts, precious holiday ornaments, special linens, laces, and tablecloths, silverware, and jewelry, which become heirlooms, and, along with the storage boxes, are passed down through the generations.
Indeed, it has been this way for thousands of years, as, throughout the centuries, every known society has placed great importance, and high values, on all sorts of boxes. These have been made in all sizes, from prayer boxes, which were small enough to be worn as necklaces, to cedar chests and trunks that were large enough to be used for storing household goods.
Boxes have also been constructed from an endless variety of materials, including stone, wood, marble, gold, silver, copper, steel, porcelain, and crystal. They have been carved, etched, engraved, inscribed, and decorated with beads, jewels, shells, pearls, precious metals, ivory, and symbols of every description. Some of these special boxes have been – and continue to be – the focal points of holiday, family, religious, and secular traditions.
As far back as ancient Egypt, wooden chests were used for storing jewels, gold, documents, and other important assets. In Europe, it was common for craftsmen, using whole trees, to carve one-piece chests that were used to safeguard valuables.
In early America, when cellars were dank, and closets were non-existent, the colonists used chests made of cedar for storing blankets, linens, clothes, and whatever scarce items of finery that they owned. Since it was also rare to find a chair, the chests served as benches, too. Truly, these chests were so essential to the households that, according to the logs of several ships that brought settlers to America, they were, frequently, the only possessions that families brought with them. In later years, that was also the case with many pioneers who were traveling west.
Of course, there was a period in which the cedar chest was commonly referred to as the “hope chest.” According to the customs of the time, it would be given to a young woman, as a place to keep linens, blankets, tablecloths, towels, quilts, and other things that would be necessary for starting a household when she got married. Fortunately, however, that tradition has long since faded.