This September we have just launched a new dinner menu called ‘Filoxenia’. Filoxenia literally translates to: ‘friend to a stranger’ and it’s a Greek value that still lives on today in Greece from ancient times!
We named this specific menu this way because making our guests feel the true, authentic Greek ‘filoxenia’ is what we are all about here at The Real Greek.
But what is “filoxenia” all about?
Filoxenia has deep roots in ancient Greece, where ‘xenia’ was used to describe the virtue of showing generosity and courtesy to strangers and creating a true relationship between guest and host.
In ancient times Greece’s composition was very different to today; It was composed of numerous regions and islands, each one with different dialects and customs.
Trade was what made people from all these different regions come in contact, so ‘filoxenia’ was not just about hospitality, but mainly it was like an unspoken cultural law that preserved order amongst all these people who were simultaneously locals and strangers. Everyone could find themselves in the position of the host or the guest and even more, it was thought that any stranger might be a god under disguise, ‘testing’ the locals.
Strangers, ‘xeni’, were protected by Zeus- he was named ‘Zeus Xenios’ because of that- and they were very welcome because they also brought a lot of information about the rest of the world with them.
Thoukidides writes that Pericles mentioned how Athenians kept their city ‘open’ to all, they never turned away strangers and took pride in showing them the Athenian culture and civilization.
There were moral ‘laws’ to filoxenia: all visitors were to be shown the same hospitality and treated with the same respect, regardless of their social, economic or political status. They could never draw arms to fight each other and that obligation concerned their offspring as well!
There were also physical obligations: they had to offer guests meals, baths and sleeping quarters. They had to offer them well wishes and gifts upon their departure- ‘Xenia gifts’.
All this meant they became bonded in friendship for life, a friendship inherited by the next generations.
Today, you can see that the Greeks have these moral and physical ‘obligations’ embedded in their culture, if not their DNA! If a visitor asks a local for simple info, it is very possible that the local might appoint himself as their tour guide, taking them around town, explaining history and mythology and treating them to a Greek coffee or ‘must-try’ local treats on the way. In the islands, it is impossible for locals to see someone walking/looking around without asking them if they’d like a treat or offering them any kind of produce they have just picked.
The Greeks are proud of their homeland and love all that it has to offer, and they really want ‘xeni’ to experience that as well.
We feel tremendous joy every time our guests tell us they feel like they are in Greece when they eat with us, because that means that ‘mission filoxenia’ has been accomplished!
To Celebrate the Filoxenia Spirit, we have partnered with the Hellenic Hope, UK based charity that helps Kids at Risk in Greece (http://www.hellenic-hope.org/). For each Filoxenia Dinner Menu sold in our restaurants, 10p will be donated to the charity.
We hope you embrace this new menu and get the feel of what filoxenia means to us!