Posted By: Kelly Seal Date: 12-26-2017 Comments: 0
It’s almost the New Year, which means around the world, we will soon gather with friends and family to toast and ring in 2017. And along with that celebration is the romantic expectation that we will have someone to kiss when the clock strikes midnight! Or as the American folklore goes, you’ll be lonely for the rest of the year.
But this romantic notion surrounding the New Year’s Eve kiss doesn’t hold the same meaning in other parts of the world. For instance, in Scotland, the belief is not so dire – if you’re at a Hogmanay (Scottish word for last day of the year) party on New Year’s Eve, you’re supposed to kiss everyone there!
What Can A Kiss Tell Us?
The act of the kiss signifies connection and affection, though its meaning varies greatly depending on the context. For instance, a kiss could be a platonic gesture among friends or family members (as a kiss on the cheek in greeting), or a romantic gesture between two people in love. But further than that, the meaning of the kiss varies across countries and cultures, all of whom have their own traditions and beliefs when it comes to the act of kissing. In some countries, like in India, public kissing is frowned upon altogether.
For all their fanfare, romantic mouth-on-mouth kisses are not the universal human expression of love Westerners assume them to be. Anthropologists at the University of Nevada found that more than half of the 168 diverse cultures they studied did not take part in romantic kissing as a way of getting in the mood. Instead, other intimate gestures like sniffing each other’s cheeks and necks, passing open mouths past each other, and exchanging of breath are common in some sub-Saharan tribes and communities along the equator.
While a romantic kiss on the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is a well-known tradition, at least in the Western world, there are many kissing traditions around the world that you might not know about. (Here’s a hint – not all kissing traditions are about romance!)
Kissing Traditions In Europe
As you might assume, most of the romantic European kissing traditions were born in Italy and France. Italian superstition claims that if you kiss your sweetheart on a gondola at sunset while under the Bridge of Sighs, you will be guaranteed eternal love. And the Trevi Fountain, the iconic love scene in “La Dolce Vita” has inspired many tourists to throw coins into the fountain and kiss their beloved, hoping to capture that same romantic feeling and return to Rome once again.
And what about French kissing? Turns out, it really did originate in France, at least for us Americans. Tongue kissing is thought to have been brought back to the U.S. following World War II when returning soldiers greeted their girlfriends and wives with kisses like the ones they’d seen overseas between the French, who were more publicly open with their affection.
In Romania, Dragobete is the original Valentine’s Day, dating back to pagan times. According to one folk tale, boys and girls would spend the day in the woods gathering flowers, and the girls would run home at sunset. The boys would then chase the girl they liked because if they were able to catch and kiss her, they were considered engaged. While that custom has fallen out of practice, Dragobete is still celebrated on February 24 as a type of Valentine’s Day for young lovers.
Kissing Traditions In North America
In Ontario, Canada, people still flock to “The Kissing Bridge.” It’s the last remaining covered bridge in the province, and is affectionately called The Kissing Bridge since lovers could hide as they crossed it, making it easy to sneak a kiss with the object of their affection.
But close by in the Arctic region, people show their affection for their loved ones in a very different way. They press their nose and lips against the cheek or forehead of another and breathe in. This is known as “kunik” and commonly referred to as “Eskimo kissing” by the early explorers of the Arctic. Similar traditions have been seen in Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Polynesian Islands, and the Maori people of New Zealand.
Kissing Traditions In Asia
Kissing is a complicated practice in many Asian countries, in part due to the influence of religion and cultures steeped in tradition that date back centuries. Some countries reject public displays of affection altogether, even in greeting. Other countries are evolving and kissing has become more acceptable.
In the UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, men greet each other by touching each other’s noses. In most Arab countries, men kissing men is a common practice. A hug, followed by cheek or forehead kissing is customary. But kissing someone from the opposite gender is not appreciated, unless she is a close friend or family member.
Kissing in public (even as a greeting) is somewhat new in Japan. Traditionally, it was saved for only private romantic moments and not really discussed. Until fairly recently, the Japanese language didn’t even have a word for kissing.
Some anthropologists believe India is responsible for the modern romantic kiss, with evidence preserved in early Indian sculptures. According to some, this cultural practice spread to the West in the wake of Alexander the Great after he invaded India in 326 BC. Despite this long history, kissing remains something to do behind closed doors. For instance, kissing in public is still considered taboo in India.
In Thailand, public kissing is taboo as well. In fact, the only form of kiss you are likely to see is the hawm-gaem—or ‘sniff kiss’. An expression of warmth, gratitude or appreciation, the ‘sniff kiss’ is executed by shutting one’s lips tightly inwards, pressing your nose against your loved one’s cheek, and giving a long sniff.
Kissing Traditions In Africa
The practice of kissing each other is uncommon in many African countries, because kissing is reserved for signs of respect. For instance, African tribes show respect to the chief by kissing the ground where he has walked.
Public kissing between men and women is prohibited in Egypt. However, people of the same gender can greet each other by kissing on the cheeks three times.
Adopting Your Own Kissing Traditions…
As you can see, there are many kissing traditions around the world, steeped in cultural beliefs and norms, some with no attachment to romance at all. The romantic link to kissing persists in the West thanks, in part, to our beliefs and our own traditions when it comes to public displays of affection. We crave connection as human beings, and a kiss is a good way to connect.
So what is the significance of a kiss this year on New Year’s Eve? Luckily, that’s up to you to decide.