“An act of hospitality can only be poetic”—Jacques Derrida
When was the last time you had strangers over for dinner or to spend the night? As far as I can remember, I’ve never done such a thing, and I don’t think many people have. Why not? Probably because it’s not part of our upbringing or culture.
On the other side of the pond, however, philoxenia or Greek hospitality is tradition, often described as “love of the stranger.” Back in the days, hospitality was a religious obligation associated with charity. It was a social obligation you couldn’t say no to, something you did without thinking twice. Nowadays, being hospitable is a virtue. Even in Greece it’s becoming less and less common, especially in heavily populated regions. So you kind of have to go off the beaten path to find remnants of this exemplary tradition.
Learning the Greek art of hospitality is easier than you may think, though. It’s simply a matter of opening your door to a stranger who comes o’ knocking or requests a stay in your abode. Prepare yourself mentally to serve up a nice meal to a person in transit—a friend of a friend or someone you struck up a conversation with on the street, even if you don’t know them that well. Just make sure to have foods on hand you can easily fix up and serve, and a good bottle of wine—you really can’t go wrong! We bet you’ll enjoy their company and conversation as much as they yours. Because Greek hospitality is all about opening yourself to new people and cultures. So, are you ready to give philoxenia a whirl?
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