Hospitality is the relationship of a host towards a guest, wherein the host receives the guest with some amount of goodwill and welcome. This includes the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt describes hospitality in the Encyclopédie as the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity. Hospitality is also the way people treat others, for example in the service of welcoming and receiving guests in hotels. Hospitality plays a role in augmenting or decreasing the volume of sales of an organization.
Hospitality ethics is a discipline that studies this usage of hospitality.
"Hospitality" derives from the Latin hospes, meaning "host", "guest", or "stranger". Hospes is formed from hostis, which means "stranger" or "enemy" (the latter being where terms like "hostile" derive). By metonymy, the Latin word hospitalis means a guest-chamber, guest's lodging, an inn. Hospes/hostis is thus the root for the English words host, hospitality, hospice, hostel, and hotel.
In ancient cultures, hospitality involved welcoming the stranger and offering him food, shelter, and safety.
Main article: Xenia (Greek)
In Ancient Greece, hospitality was a right, with the host being expected to make sure the needs of his guests were met. Conversely, the guest was expected to abide by a set code of behaviour. The ancient Greek term xenia—or theoxenia when a god was involved—expressed this ritualized guest-friendship relation. This relationship was codified in the Homeric epics, and especially in the Odyssey. In Greek society, a person's ability to abide by the laws of hospitality determined nobility and social standing. The ancient Greeks, since the time of Homer, believed that the goddess of hospitality and hearth was Hestia, one of the original six Olympians.
In India and Nepal, hospitality is based on the principle Atithi Devo Bhava, meaning "the guest is God". This principle is shown in a number of stories where a guest is revealed to be a god who rewards the provider of hospitality. From this stems, the Indian or Nepalese practice of graciousness towards guests at home and in all social situations. The Tirukkuṛaḷ, an ancient Indian work on ethics and morality, explains the ethics of hospitality in verses 81 through 90, dedicating a separate chapter to it (chapter 9).
Judaism praises hospitality to strangers and guests, based largely on the examples of Abraham and Lot in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 18:1–8 and 19:1–8). In Hebrew, the practice is called hachnasat orchim, meaning "welcoming guests". Besides other expectations, hosts are expected to provide nourishment, comfort, and entertainment for their guests, and at the end of the visit, hosts customarily escort their guests out of their home, wishing them a safe journey.
Abraham set the standard as providing three things:
The initial letters of these Hebrew words spell Aishel (Genesis 21:33).
In Christianity, hospitality is a virtue. It is a reminder of sympathy for strangers and a rule to welcome visitors. This is a virtue found in the Old Testament, with, for example, the custom of the foot washing of visitors or the kiss of peace. Jesus taught in the New Testament that those who had welcomed a stranger had welcomed him. He expanded the meaning of brother and neighbor to include the stranger, that he or she be treated with hospitality.
Pope John Paul II wrote: "Welcoming our brothers and sisters with care and willingness must not be limited to extraordinary occasions but must become for all believers a habit of service in their daily lives." He also said, "Only those who have opened their hearts to Christ can offer a hospitality that is never formal or superficial but identified by 'gentleness' and 'reverence'." Some Western countries have developed a host culture for immigrants based on the Bible. In some Christian belief, a guest should never be made to feel that they are causing undue extra labor by their presence.
One of the main principles of Pashtunwali is Melmastyā́. This is the display of hospitality and profound respect to all visitors (regardless of race, religion, national affiliation, or economic status) without any hope of remuneration or favour. Pashtuns will go to great lengths to show their hospitality.
In Islam, there is a strong emphasis on expressing goodwill through the phrase peace be upon you Assalamu Alaikum. This practice is rooted in the teachings of Muhammad. These teachings extend to the treatment of guests and even prisoners of war. Authentic sources and Quranic verses underscore the importance of showing kindness and peace towards these people.
Abu Aziz ibn Umair reported: "I was among the prisoners of war on the day of the battle of Badr. Muhammad had said, 'I enjoin you to treat the captives well.' After I accepted Islam, I was among the Ansar (Inhabitants of Madinah) and when the time of lunch or dinner arrived, I would feed dates to the prisoners for I had been fed bread due to the command of Muhammad."
Good hospitality is crucial in Islam even in business. According to another report, Muhammad passed by a pile of food in the market. He put his hand inside it and felt dampness, although the surface was dry. He said:
"O owner of the food, what is this?"
The man said, "It was damaged by rain, O Messenger of God."
He said, "Why did you not put the rain-damaged food on top so that people could see it! Whoever cheats us is not one of us."
Celtic societies also valued hospitality, especially in terms of protection. A host who granted a person's request for refuge was expected not only to provide food and shelter for his/her guest, but to make sure they did not come to harm while under their care.
In Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands, it is often considered inappropriate to feed children from another family. Visiting children may be asked to leave at dinnertime or to wait in another room, or the host family may call the visitor's parents and ask for permission.
In the West today hospitality is rarely a matter of protection and survival and is more associated with etiquette and entertainment. However, it still involves showing respect for one's guests, providing for their needs, and treating them as equals. Cultures and subcultures vary in the extent to which one is expected to show hospitality to strangers, as opposed to personal friends or members of one's ingroup.
In anthropology, hospitality has been analyzed as an unequal relation between hosts and guests, mediated through various forms of exchange.
Jacques Derrida offers a model to understand hospitality that divides unconditional hospitality from conditional hospitality. Over the centuries, philosophers have considered the problem of hospitality. To Derrida, there is an implicit hostility in hospitality, as it requires treating a person as a stranger, distancing them from oneself; Derrida labels this intrinsic conflict with the portmanteau "hostipitality". However, hospitality offers a paradoxical situation (like language), since the inclusion of those who are welcomed in the sacred law of hospitality implies that others will be rejected.
Julia Kristeva alerts readers to the dangers of "perverse hospitality", takes advantage of the vulnerability of aliens to dispossess them. Hospitality reduces the tension in the process of host-guest encounters, producing a liminal zone that combines curiosity about others and fear of strangers. Hospitality centres on the belief that strangers should be assisted and protected while traveling. However, some disagree. Anthony Pagden describes how the concept of hospitality was historically manipulated to legitimate the conquest of the Americas by imposing the right of free transit, which was conducive to the formation of the modern nation state. This suggests that hospitality is a political institution, which can be ideologically deformed to oppress others.
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