Why do you remove your hat at the table?

On Thursday nights my husband and I host a parenting class at our home. Somehow, throughout the conversation this week, we were stuck on “why we make our kids remove our hats at the table”. I quickly said that it was a respect issue and my husband agreed. However, there were some points that were made which made me realize that I needed a reason WHY it was for respect. Because of time factors, we had to leave the discussion for a later time. I have had time to think and research this subject, so here is my discovery.
In ancient times, men bowed to others when greeting them as a sign of respect. There was also a custom of kneeling and kissing the hand. Something that has been all throughout history, however, is the removal of the hat as a term of respect or cleanliness. If you were a warrior with a mask or helmet on, you would have to remove your head covering when entering a town or village so that people knew who you were. If you met someone on a road with a helmet or facial covering, you would remove it for your own safety as you would probably be attacked otherwise. People would remove hats and head coverings upon entering a dwelling after working in the fields as they would be very dirty from the grime of the day. There would be the typical “washing up” before supper which included removing your hat. You certainly wouldn’t want to drop cow poop in your soup.
Sometime in the early 1800’s, men started to remove their hats when going indoors or when speaking to women and tip their hats even if a woman looked at him. It was a social custom. He could have been flirting, or simply being polite. Personally, I think that this is a romantic view of respect. He would also tip his hat to other men or a clergyman or religious figure to recognize them publicly. In the 1960’s men stopped wearing hats (as cowboy hats) and the social custom was much lost. Some and very few men tip their heads (without hats) in response to this tradition, but the custom has been forgotten by a large percentage of the country.
This is an excellent article on hat etiquette:
In the early church, head coverings were required for women. It was tradition. In the bible, when Paul talked about the head coverings, he was referring to traditions and social requirements. After reading some amazing (and lengthy) articles on the tradition of head coverings for women in the church, I can sum them up in English: As a follower of Christ, you need to act like it. If people see you as a follower of Christ, but you are causing others to stumble because of ignoring social requirements or common traditions, it’s a problem that you don’t need to have. Back then, because of strict Jewish traditions, it was required to wear a head covering if you were a woman or you could be killed. That’s a big problem. To further explain this type of “social requirement” in our society, think about this word picture: Lets say that you want a job at a professional establishment and you go to the job interview. The social requirement is that you ‘dress for success’. However, you do not think that the way you dress should determine whether you get the job or not. When you get up that morning of the interview, you purposefully eat garlic bread so that your breath is ‘less than wonderful’, you don’t take a shower, you don’t brush your teeth or comb your hair and you wear stained pajamas to the interview. Do you think that the job would be yours? Do you think that you would even be invited into the meeting?
In our society, you wouldn’t be killed for this as in the Jewish traditions, but you certainly wouldn’t excel at your goals.
My research led me to read about common courtesies; please, thank you, you’re welcome. I personally teach my kids to use their ‘manners’. However, manners are simply social requirements and common courtesy. Nowhere in the bible does it talk about saying the words, “thank you” and “please” or “you are welcome”, yet you will find manners a requirement in Christian homes and in many non-Christian homes.
Saying please started in the 1600-1700’s and there is an excellent article to read about it here:
I realize that this article is a little bit choppy, so I would like to tie it all together now.
Whether it is the removal of a hat at supper or church, to shake hands as a greeting, or to wear appropriate attire at an interview, it is our responsibility as parents to teach our children proper etiquette. Especially as a Christian family. In the law (the old testament), God gave very strict instructions for the Jewish culture so that they would stand out as his chosen people. They were to follow a set of rules that was different than the rest of the world. They were to ALSO follow the “world’s” laws.
In our society, we have official laws (like driving the speed limit) and we have unofficial laws of conduct (like common courtesies). As Christians and parents, we are called to a higher standard and should look for ways to stand out and train our children to do so as well. One of those ways is by following unofficial laws….and following them well. Do you think that your child will be a better witness as someone who doesn’t follow social customs such as manners or does follow them? Do you think that his future mother in law will be more impressed with him leaving his ball cap on at supper, or removing it to honor and respect her?
When I say “following social customs”, I am referring to the ones that are in God’s design. If the social custom puts others before ourselves, then it is required of us as Christians.
There were social customs such as slavery and mistreatment of African Americans, Native Americans etc that are OBVIOUSLY not social customs that would be in God’s design. There are social customs that are twisted as well (such as a husband’s and wife’s roll in a home) that are also not what is in God’s design. It is important to evaluate each social custom as to what puts others first. It is our moral mandate.
I realize that this discussion is regarding hats, but looking deeper into social customs and what people perceive as respectful is important.
Saying the words, “please, thank you or you’re welcome” are only words. They are neither respectful or disrespectful. It is a perceived respect and honoring due to social custom. Since it is perceived as a respect and honor issue for many people we will use our manners.
Removing of a hat in any circumstance, is itself simply a physical act. It is neither respectful or disrespectful. It is a perceived respect and honoring due to its social custom. Since it is perceived as a respect and honor issue for many people, our responsibility is to make sure that others are respected, thus removing the hat.

And that, my friends, is why my children remove their hat at my table.  



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