FILOXENIA OR HOSPITALITY
The Greek god Zeus is sometimes called Zeus Xenios for his role as the protector of strangers. In ancient times, it was considered a sin to treat a stranger badly as hospitality was always offered regardless of one’s status of class or wealth. A stranger arriving into a new city knew that he/she would be welcomed into any home and would be treated like royalty. They would be provided a bath, the finest clothes, a wonderful meal, and terrific conversation to accompany it. In ancient times, the strangers weren't tourists, they were messengers, exiles, or people passing through on their way to a far-away destination. In Greek, the word for hotel is, “xenodoxeio”, which stems from the ancient Greek meaning of, “the acceptance of strangers”. In the modern-day Greek language, there are many words whose roots are derived from the phrase “xeno”, which translates to stranger. I believe this is one of the most beautiful terms as it is not just another word in our vocabulary, but rather it is a code of moral values dating back to ancient times. “Xeno”, is a way of life that Greeks have nurtured and practiced for centuries. The word “filoxenia”, has a literal translation of "friend to stranger". But, in the English language, it is commonly translated to “hospitality” which in my opinion, does not do the actual word justice as its meaning goes far beyond the common definition of hospitality. “Filoxenia” is when a stranger is lost and rather than providing them confusing directions as to how they should get to their destination, you invite them to follow you along on the journey as you guide them to their desired location. In Ikaria, when people are hiking and come upon a person working in their garden, they are invited into their home for a coffee which then turns into a dinner with wine and conversation. Ikarians are well known for their “filoxenia”, and I actually feel that we take it a step further than other parts of Greece. Individuals who arrived upon your doorstep as strangers, leave as friends. When someone stops by for a coffee, it is never "just for a cup of coffee". Even today, if we are invited to a wedding or baptism, we know that if we should bring a friend who is unfamiliar, they will be welcomed warmly. I find it quite amazing that a tradition as ancient as this, still continues in these modern times when the practice of isolation and keeping only to those we know is not so far in the past.