Hospitality or Hosting Etiquette is something I have always had a hard time mastering.  Because I do not want people to fuss over me, I find it hard to know what is the proper way to host a guest.

All throughout history, hosting guests has been an important part of life.  It was a time that you could show respect to your neighbors or people of importance.

Medieval Hospitality...
For instance, when the king would visit his Lords and Ladies, special attention was made to every detail.  Nothing went amiss.  The fattest hog was slaughtered and the banqueting table was set so that the king would have all the luxuries of home in a far away land.

The King would travel with his Queen, along with his knights, squires, and the other members of his court.  Preparations for their visit began weeks before their arrival.  The manor home had to be cleaned from top to bottom, the room's readied, and provisions had to be gathered for the great feast.  The Lord's serfs would hunt for game and the Lady's servants would help grind the wheat for the baking.  The hog and deer would be turned on spits, and great big pots of boiled stew were bubbling over fires on the kitchen hearth.  Entertainment was worked into the plan.  Jesters, dancers, and musicians were all practicing for the great event.

When the King and all his people came, the trumpets sounded and red carpet was rolled out.  He sat down to the great feast while listening to the music and visiting with all his extended royal family.  If this feast impressed him, he would be back again next year at the same time.

The Evolution of Hospitality...
The emphasis of making a home ready for company has changed over the years in our country.

Colonial Times...
At the start of our foundation of a nation women did enjoy entertaining her guests.  She would take pride in showing off her home and also providing tea to her guests.  All the way back to the colonial times, the woman of the home would be ready at all times for a call.  There were no phones, so you could not plan when someone would pop in for a house call.  She made sure her home was presentable each afternoon.  All her work would be done before lunch and the tea kettle on.  As she sat in great anticipation for a possible guest, she would do some needlework.  The children were to be quiet and reserved during calling hours.

When a guest would arrive, they would be greeted and offered the nicest chair in the parlor.  The lady of the home would place her finest china cup and saucer in front of the guest and begin pouring the tea.  Soon she would set a plate of tea cakes before her guest as she knew the guest may have come a long way and would need to replenish.  The guest felt a warm welcome and every need was met.  Things were quiet and visiting was commenced.  They may have talked for an hour until the calling hour was up.  The guest did not want to wear out her welcome as it was common knowledge that a women had dinner to prepare and that was to be respected.

Civil War Era...
During the times surrounding the Civil War, women practiced a great measure of hospitality.  It was a measure of who you were if you could provide good hospitality to your friends and neighbors.  The home was prettied and cleaned.  The tea was on.  The food was prepared.  This is where the South gets their long standing reputation for hospitality.  It is called Southern Hospitality.  They would open their homes to anyone, offering fresh beds for sleeping, and hot meals for the filling.Southern Hospitality at its Finest...
We recently had the experience of Southern Hospitality in Mississippi.  We were traveling down for a wedding of a close family friend.  We were coming from afar and thought we would have to spend a bunch of extra money on food, gas, and lodging.  The bride's parents let us know there was a nice man who went to their church offering his home to anyone who needed it.  I accepted the offer and we headed down the road.  I had no idea who this man was or if we would be sleeping on a floor or in a back room.  Visions of possibilities ran through my mind as we rolled through the beautiful countryside.When we arrived, Steve Travis greeted us with a warm smile and handshake.  He brought us into his home and it was just beautiful.  He had spent days cleaning it with his family helper, Miss Ann.  Miss Ann had been their helper her entire life.  Her mother was a help to his late grandparents and parents who owned the family farm. Steve grew up with Ann and they became like family.  The beds were made with fresh bedding.  Fluffy white towels stacked in the bathrooms.  Soap and any bathroom provision were available to us.

And the snacks.  We do not usually buy snacks and sweets, but it was a very fun treat for the children.  It was the highlight of the entire weekend for them.  And soda.  They never get soda.  They could hardly believe their eyes.

He opened his refrigerator to reveal all the food he bought for us in there.  Wow.   He did not even know us but he treated us with the highest regard.  Steve wanted us to be blessed and well fed.  And then he asked us if he could have Miss Ann come and fix us some breakfast.  I could tell it would thrill his heart to bless us like that so I said, "Yes, Thank you so much!"  My husband felt so guilty with all he did to make us feel welcome.  I told him that this man probably enjoys blessing us so much more than we understand.  We should just relax, be blessed, and be thankful.

I learned so much more in that short stay at the home of Steve Travis than I have learned in a long time.  I have never been the best person for hospitality.  I often forget to ask someone if they need a glass of water.  I never serve tea and because I often forget to eat, I forget to offer snacks as well.

Here is a photo of Mr. Steve Travis and Miss Ann with our family.  My husband was taking the photo.

We enjoyed hearing Steve's stories about the old dairy operation and all they did to keep it going in hard times.  The views were spectacular and Miss Ann's biscuits were second to none.  Listening to her tell of how she helped the family all these years just melted my heart.  I wished I could have sat and learned from her for many more days.  She is a good example of kind serving and a thankful heart.  Watching her make breakfast was my highlight of the weekend besides the beautiful wedding.  She is a treasure.

What an example of the Love of Christ.  We felt like royalty at this home and I want to take something from that experience.  A lesson on hospitality.

For Short visits...

  • Before your guest arrives, make sure to run through the home.  Especially the bathrooms.  Pay close attention to the toilet paper supply, have a fresh towel available for drying hands, make sure there is soap, that the sink and toilet are clean and operational, and the garbage is taken out.  
  • Tidy the home and make it as presentable as you can so their is no items on the floor that your guest will have to trip over.  
  • Make sure the home is a comfortable temperature.  If you have air conditioning, turn it on for guests.  (some of us try to be careful how much we use expensive heating and cooling features).  Make sure to run a fan if you do not have air conditioning in the hotter months.  If it is in the cooler months, make sure you have the heater going so your guests do not get a chill.
  • Prepare a little snack in advance and arrange it on a fancy plate if you have one.
  • When your guest comes to the door, greet them and invite them into your home.  
  • Ask to take their belongings and put them in a safe place, or hang up their coats for them.
  • Present them a comfortable place to sit down. 
  • Offer them a glass of ice water.  If you have other things like tea, milk, soda, or juice, offer your best to them.
  • Bring the plate of snacks out to them for them to enjoy while you are visiting.  
  • Do not get uptight about mess and noise of their children.  Try to focus on them.  Treat them the way you would want to be treated.  A nervous look can make a person feel unwelcome.  Just take a deep breath.  You can clean up everything after they leave.  Try to relax and make your guests feel at home while they are with you.

For Longer, Overnight Visits...

  • Before your guests arrive, make sure their bedroom is deeply cleaned, fresh sheets are on the bed, and the bathroom they are using will be extra clean.  Provide them with enough bath towels, soap, and wash clothes necessary for their stay.  Show them where extra pillows and blankets are in case they need them for some reason.  
  • Offer meals at regular times.  Find out when they are used to eating because some people are very worried about nap times for smaller children.  You do not want to throw off their eating and napping cycles.  
  • Make sure to ask what they can and can not eat.  Some people have allergies to certain foods and you would not want to have them hungry or in the hospital. 
  • Find out if they enjoy movies and see if their is anything they would like to watch.  If they do not like to watch movies, then make sure you do not have the tv on at any time while they are there so as to not become a stumbling block for them and their standards.  
  • Try to adjust to them so they feel at ease in your home.  Make sure they have plenty to eat at all times, providing snack times throughout the days they are there.  
  • Offer drinks to be available at all times.  Show them where the glasses are and where they can find drinks if they need them.  
  • Let them know they are welcome to do some laundry if needed.  Show them where the laundry facility is and how to use the machine.  
  • Allow them use of the phone if they need to make a call.  Give them keys to the home if they are out and about and need access to the home at some point.  The last thing you would want is your guest sitting outside waiting for you to let them in.  
  • If there are things going on in the community, make sure to invite them along.
  • Give them directions to shopping centers and restaurants or other places of interest so they can take an afternoon break if they would like to see things in your area.  
  • Above all, make them feel rested.  Do not get uptight if they do not do things your way.  Allow them the freedom to be who they are.  Enjoy your time with them.

Giving someone the royal treatment is a blessing.  Making your home a fun place to visit is a good feeling for any housekeeper.  What is even more special, is that our Lord is preparing a place for us.  He has his banqueting table set and he will welcome us one day to dine with Him.  What a feast it will be!

Just for a reminder…

Tea Time Talk Show Tuesday Upcoming Schedule:

Tuesday, May 1, 2018  at 10 am CST will feature Co-Host Owen Newman

  • The following Tuesday will be featuring Owen Newman from the hills of TN talking about homesteading and the simple life.  He has a lot of wisdom and experience living with less and making the most of each and every resource they are given.  If you have any specific questions, please leave a comment below or send us an email or message on facebook from the keeper of the homestead page.  

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25 thoughts on “Southern Hospitality 

  1. I LOVED this post! You did a wonderful job Erin. Wow, I’d feel honored to stay at your home anytime.
    And amen to Steve and Miss Ann for being such a good example and blessing to all of us! 🙂

  2. How touched I was when I realized you were honoring Steve Travis! He is like that in church too, always ready and willing to help with anything. His parents were like that. I can’t wait to share this with him… it will bless him. Thank you for all you do, Erin to “share” your life on the internet… there are other ways of hospitality too. 🙂

    • Awww. You are so kind and sweet to me. I really had a lovely time at your daughter’s wedding. Your family as well as Steve Travis treat people so kindly and warmly. It has been such a blessing to our family and also makes me think of how the world should be. We need a lot more kindness in our world. Thanks for sharing it with us. 🙂

  3. I am the husband of Kay Travis Jones and the father of our son, Travis Christopher Jones (age 6) and have been experienced the hospitality of this family and have been blessed by it also for 20 years. The beauty of all of it has its foundation in the Christian faith of this fine southern family. While “southern hospitality and its traditions” have definitely had their influence, the driving factor is the love of Christ that is felt in this home. We are so glad that you were able to enjoy the “blessings of true Southern living” and of our Lord. They truly complement each other when the seasoning of the Holy Spirit is present!!

    • Thank you for taking the time to post your comment here. I am so glad that you have been so blessed by the Travis family. It was such an example to us of the Love of Christ. They are truly very loving and open their home to strangers like us, treating us with such care. I will never forget that wonderful example.

  4. Yes, I loved this post, too! So true and the words were so blessed. I had an experience with hospitality once just like this. It is so humbling and just makes you feel so loved. Thanks for the wonderful post, Erin.

  5. That’s so precious!! I truly love the Christ-like way the Travis’s have always opened their home and lives as a blessing to others…no matter what trials or troubles they may be going through personally. I hope and pray I can be like that.

  6. Steve learned hospitality well from his mother Mrs Virginia . She made everyone feel welcome at home and loved. It just came natural for her, Her love for the Lord really blessed others.One special memory of her was the time she had a group of people over and she asked each one to draw a name and tell 1 thing you noticed about them that was an encouragement to you.She was teaching us to edify , build up, and encourage one another in a creative way. Mr. Charles was equally hospitable and encouraging. They are missed and their lives live on through their children Steve and Kay.

  7. Erin, If your family EVER gets out to CA near San Diego or you have a chance to go somewhere on vacation, we would love to have you and your family stay with us. We are close to the ocean and there are so many fun things to do here. It is a great vacation spot! We have plenty of beds so your family would be very comfortable. Love, Lori

  8. Love this post, I’m just learning how to give the best to our guests. I hope some day we could be like Mr. Travis and Ms. Ann.
    Hugs from Mexico!

  9. This is how we do it in India too!! Going over and above in taking care of our guests is part of the Indian hospitality! Everything that was done there is regularly done at home!!

  10. I love love love this list I would like to add one thing for us fellow hostesses” let them use your wifi” some guest have important emails they need to get or down load maps and directions to things or they may have kindles and might enjoy reading a good book and data is exspencive these days and if they are out of town guest they may have trouble finding the means to get to a “hot spot”. But if you are a guest remember the adage ” house guest are like fish, after 3 days they both stink” and be gracious to your host out pouring of time and money. Your host, like you, also has jobs and mouths to feed. Just because your on vacation doesn’t mean your host is. These are some things I had to learn the hard way. Hopefully my embarrassment will save you from them same:)

  11. Thank you for this post! I struggle with hospitality! I have 5 young children and we are on a tight budget. I always want to have people over but then all the what ifs pop up. What if my kids are loud, what if my son runs through the house naked as is the norm! what if I don’t have enough food to serve, what if my house is messy. I have 5 kids as it is! LOL
    One thing you wrote that I found interesting is that in Colonial times guests didn’t want to over extend their stay as they knew the hostess had her family to care for.
    I wish people were like this now. The times I have had people over for coffee or dinner they have worn out their welcomed in a way. It would be obvious (well at least to me) that my children were ready for bath and bed, yet our guests would continue to visit…and visit…and visit. Being gracious we don’t want to tell them to leave, but it ends up being stressful for me because at the end of the evening I have tired children who are extra cranky do to their schedule being messed with. And normally I have a nursing babe to care for also, that requires my time. Ugh..anyhow, I guess my point is that I always try to be conscience of my hostess if we are invited over to someones home and not wear out my welcome either!

  12. This post was a beautiful blessing. I have not thought in awhile of having guests as we have moved 5 hours from all of our family. This was a good reminder of how to bless others in our homes even on the occasional visit of a friend or church member. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your experience and your tips! I have a super simple fudge recipe that only requires 2 ingredients that I used to keep on hand for times like this. I will start that again! 🙂 May you and yours be very blessed!

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