Several Finnish friends have told me that girls in Finland, when they are about 15 years old, choose a style of china, usually from Arabia or Iittala, and choose a colour or a pattern and make this known to family and friends. Then at events like birthdays, achieving good exam results or whatever, everyone knows what to buy as a present … some plates or cups in the chosen design. Steadily and regularly the collection grows.
Of course the idea is not new … this is a modern survival of the wedding dowry or trousseau or what was called in England in the 1950s and 1960s putting something away in the bottom drawer. From aristocratic families in Italy in the 14th or 15th century to prudent middle class families in Victorian England to the glory box in Australia, the idea was basically the same - to give young women the best possible start in the expensive business of setting up the first home of their own.
The Finnish variation presumably involves more friends and over a longer period and carries with it an interesting message for manufactures … that quality of design and continuity, over and above novelty, are really important and loyalty to brand or design is possible for long-term marketing. This doesn't thwart new designs or stop innovation: it just means that sometimes step changes should be considered - a new colour that compliments an established range or a new pattern on an existing shape - and of course it means maintaining production and stock over a reasonable period - no change just for the sake of change.
OK not very romantic but incredibly practical … in those early and expensive days of setting up a new home you can have good, well-made china on the table that reminds you of your friends and family but is also, crucially, what you like, chose and want. Quite a bit better than five toast racks on the wedding day and quite a bit fairer if you delay marriage or never marry.
The only odd thing was that no one talked about what the boys get.