The Land of a Thousand Welcomes
Céad Míle Fáilte, this common Irish greeting for travelers arriving at these shores literally translates to mean ‘a hundred thousand welcomes’. But this affectionate name for Ireland is due in large part to the importance given to hospitality in the Brehon Laws.
Each territory had its own Brigiu or ‘hospitalier’ whose duty it was to provide free room and board to any travelers that required it. The legendary accounts talk of the good kings whose households always had a pot of food on the fire ready to feed any who wanted to eat from it. Individual households also had their duty to provide hospitality to all freemen and travelers who asked of it.
Families of certain grades would have to provide further “hospitality” by entertaining their lord and his entourage annually for a set number of days as part of the duties owed between lords and tenants.
So, while Ireland is often pitched as ‘the Land of a Thousand Welcomes’ by the Tourism Board, and while the Irish are a generally friendly people, it is an interesting insight to learn that it was once practically illegal not to be hospitable in Ireland!
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