Is Southern Hospitality a Thing?
Southern Hospitality is a thing, but it isn’t something that people only do in the South.
In fact, it’s an institution that dates back to the 1600s and 1700s, when wealthy planters tended their families and homes. As historians point out, hospitality was a way for planters to showcase their wealth and status, which enticed strangers and travelers to come to the South.
As the United States grew and became increasingly divided over slavery and other issues, the term “Southern hospitality” became an important part of white Southerners’ political discourse. It served as a defense against encroachment on their cultural practices by non-Southerners, and it became an expression of regional identity that helped to build a myth of southern exceptionalism.
This myth served as a kind of national code for white Southerners to defend their lifestyle and political system, even as it relegated African-Americans to servant roles, both during the Civil War and in the postwar period. It also helped white Northerners to accept reconciliation with the South during the Jim Crow era, and it continues as a symbol of regional identity in the 21st century.
The term “southern hospitality” is often attributed to biblical notions of neighborly goodness and the parable of the Good Samaritan. These religious ideals influenced the social practices of the antebellum planters, including hospitable behavior toward visitors.
However, there is a significant difference between how Southerners and Northerners regard hospitality. The former is defined by overt friendliness toward strangers who may never be friends with them, while the latter considers friendliness to be a sign of genuine affection for someone they are familiar with.
In addition, the practice of Southern hospitality is characterized by generosity. Rather than just putting out food or offering a drink, Southerners offer everything they have to those they invite over, often sharing their possessions in the process.
A true Southerner’s generosity doesn’t come naturally, but it is the foundation of their social life and the guiding philosophy behind their actions. They live by the belief that true hospitality requires a lot of hard work and patience, but they also know that it will make others happy.
One of the best examples of this can be found in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, where her characters demonstrate exemplary southern hospitality by opening their homes to strangers and providing for them.
While these acts of kindness might seem ordinary and unremarkable to outsiders, there’s no doubt that they make many people’s day. They’re small gestures that can help a person get through a tough time, whether they are facing an illness or death in the family.
Moreover, these acts of generosity are often carried out without expecting anything in return. This is why it’s so common to see a Southerner holding open a door for a woman or young child or standing up to allow a fellow mate to sit down while they talk to you.
While many Southerners believe that this is just part of being a good neighbor, it’s actually a big deal. It’s about making someone feel like family and expressing your gratitude for their presence in your life.