Customs and beliefs related to the figure of the host and hospitality in popular culture
Hospitality was and is one of the characteristics that distinguish Iranians. They have many uses in their culture related to the guest and how to welcome him. This custom has a long tradition. The existence of words such as "mehmânkhâne" (lit. guest house ") and" mehmânsarâ "are based on the fact that the guest plays a particular role in Iranian culture. In every house there is often a room specially reserved for guests, known as “mehmânkhâne”.
In some families it is even used to store some crockery, beds and other objects only for use by the guest. In the courtesy of the Iranians there is a famous phrase that speaks of hospitality: "we have a modest home but we put it at your disposal." This formula alludes to the fact that those who pronounce it invite the interlocutor to their home.
Types of guests in popular culture
In Iranian popular culture there are various types of guests, for example in the past the people of Damavand had given a name to each type of guest: the welcome and unwelcome one, the informal one, the foreign one, the city one, the country one, the 'confidential guest and stranger, the guest who was part of the group of the wise and famous and was a source of pride for the host, the dishonorable guest (infamous person who was a cause of infamy for the host), the lucky guest, (bringer of prosperity to the host's home and life and who taught the things he knew to his host's children and family members), the spoilers guest (one who demands a lot and expects the same from his host), the confidant and intimate guest (in the case of a woman he becomes the confidant of the woman who hosts him, otherwise the man and the host never gets tired of him or her), the host instigator, the guest storyteller (the one who attends he goes around houses telling stories of legendary heroes like Hossein the Kurd, Rostam-Nameh, Amir Arsalan etc eating delicious foods), the unexpected guest (who went to someone's house without warning), the critical guest and the long-winded guest ( the one who makes the host lose his head by what he speaks). Another type of hospitality consisted in sharing, or in preparing the necessary for cooking and collaborating in offering food; then there was the casual guest, for example if someone passing by on the street met a friend or relative, they took them to their home and in these cases the guest bought things on the street and sometimes the landlord prevented them. The traveling guest, the one who returns from a trip and can be of two types: the first is part of the family members or for example is the son who went to do the military or who moved to another city to work and come back to see family and relatives. The second is the one who, after a few years of absence, comes back to see friends and relatives. In some cases, when someone is invited to a place and the landlord warns close friends and acquaintances that he has a guest that evening, invites them to spend the evening all together or sometimes his friends and acquaintances understand who the guest is and they go to his house themselves.
The host's host formulas differ according to the personality and credibility of the host and also to the host's possibilities. Serving tea to welcome a guest is an essential part of receptions in Iran. The uses and customs associated with the host and hospitality in the different regions of Iran have particular characteristics.
Formality in receptions
Usually the landlord, as soon as he sees the guest, says: “the wind has come, it has brought flowers, how is it that you remembered us? welcome, your visit is particularly pleasing to our eyes, you have brought us joy, how is it that you remembered us poor? How beautiful! you have come, you have brought us joy, you never come to these parts, thank God for visiting us. Are you doing well? It's all OK? Are you healthy? Your visit has enlightened our eyes. The guest usually, in response to these words, says to the host: “Wouldn't you like a guest? we always disturb you. In some areas, except in big cities, the owner burns incense as soon as the guest crosses the threshold of the house so that the blessing spreads throughout the house. In accompanying the guest usually these words are exchanged:
Guest: "The time has come for us to remove the disturbance, your availability is great".
Host: "Yours is greater, today you have not had a nice day".
Guest: "You are authoritative, you have embarrassed us.
Host: "Your enemy must be embarrassed, come again here. This house is yours, this time it does not matter, you still have to come and visit us. "
Then the host accompanies the guest to the door and even a few steps out of the house and if the guest has come with his own vehicle he waits outside until the guest gets into the car and drives off. Among close relatives in some cases in accompanying the guest, he is offered food to take him with him. After consuming the meal, the host prays for the health of the host's family members for their wealth to increase and utters phrases such as: “May you celebrate on the occasion of the pilgrimage or the wedding of your loved ones. May God not let the bread be missing from your table, may your table always be set, may you always have health and may the door of your home always be open ”. In most areas of Iran, the custom is that when food is consumed, until the host begins to eat, the host does not touch the food and the owner must be the last to finish. Another custom linked to receptions and generally at the time of consuming food, is that if someone enters suddenly and without warning while the meal is being served, they are told jokingly: "Your mother-in-law loves you" or " you arrived at the right time ”.
In general, Iranians believe that some simple events are a sign of the arrival of a guest in one's home, such as: if the scissors fall from the hands of a carpet weaver; if residues are visible in the teacups, guests will arrive or receptions will be given as many as there are residues; if by pure chance the shoes are one on top of the other or the teacups have been lined up; if the girl takes the broom and starts sweeping the backyard; if a woman while preparing the dough for bread, a piece of dough falls to the ground; if the youngest child of the family enters the house and greets, if the crow near the house croaks or if a dusty cat enters the house; if someone's right eye moves involuntarily; if in drinking tea a lump of sugar falls unintentionally from the hand of the host, in all these cases one can be sure that a guest will soon arrive.
To conclude, the fact that the Iranians at all times have awaited and await the arrival of a guest and considering their beliefs in this regard, confirms their hospitality.