Southern hospitality

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Southern hospitality is a phrase used in American English to describe the stereotype of residents of the Southern United States as particularly warm, sweet, and welcoming to visitors to their homes, or to the South in general.

Southern hospitality described[edit]

Some characteristics of southern hospitality were described as early as 1835, when Jacob Abbott attributed the poor quality of taverns in the south to the lack of need for them, given the willingness of southerners to provide for strangers.[1] Abbott writes:

Abbot further describes how the best stores of the house are at the disposal of visitors.[1] Furthermore, says Abbott:

Food figures highly in Southern hospitality, a large component of the idea being the provision of Southern cuisine to visitors. A cake or other delicacy is often brought to the door of a new neighbor as a mechanism of introduction. Many club and church functions include a meal or at least a dessert and beverage. Churches in the South frequently have large commercial style kitchens to accommodate this tradition, but many "fellowship suppers" are "covered dish": everyone attending brings a dish. However, if a newcomer arrives without a dish, he or she will be made to feel welcome and served generously. When a death or serious illness occurs, neighbors, friends, and church members generally bring food to the bereaved family for a period of time. A number of cookbooks promise recipes advancing this concept.[2]

Other features of Southern Hospitality include proper local etiquette (i.e., calling one "Sir" or "Ma'am", opening doors for women (as well as men removing their hats when in the presence of a woman or inside her house), cooking enough for everyone who might be around at mealtime, inviting one to church functions, etc.) While persons from outside the region often mistake many of the southern hospitality customs as being disingenuous or fake in some way, in actuality the customs are often a way to make the visitor feel as comfortable as possible in an unfamiliar setting.

Critical examination[edit]

Southern hospitality has been examined as a reflection of the deeply held religious beliefs of the region; the idea that one should be good to strangers is an outgrowth of such Biblical parables as the Good Samaritan. Indeed Ernest Hamlin Abbott wrote in 1902, "as religious observances are in the South as naturally included in the hospitality of the home as anything else, so, conversely, hospitality in the South is an integral part of the church services".[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Jacob Abbott, New England, and Her Institutions (1835), p. 223.
  2. ^ For example, Winifred Green Cheney, The Southern Hospitality Cookbook (1976) ISBN 0-8487-0417-7; Sara Pitzer, Enjoying the Art of Southern Hospitality: Menus, Recipes, and Suggestions for Entertaining Simply and Graciously (1990) ISBN 0-87483-121-0; Lisette Verlander, Susan Murphy, The Cookin' Cajun Cooking School Cookbook (1997) ISBN 0-87905-784-X (stating "I learned to love the tastes and smells of good food, and that true Southern hospitality begins in the kitchen, the soul of a home"); James Villas, The Glory of Southern Cooking (2007) ISBN 0-7645-7601-1 (discussing "the sacred tradition of preparing and serving lots of good food and drink to large numbers of family, friends, and even strangers — better known as Southern hospitality").
  3. ^ Ernest Hamlin Abbott, Religious Life in America: A Record of Personal Observation (1902), p. 111.


  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference Abbot was invoked but never defined (see the help page).