5 Kissing Traditions From Around The World That Will Have You Puckering Up

by Annie Foskett

If I had to name a personal kissing tradition, it would be "always-ducking-out-of-the-first-kiss-even-if-I-like-you." It's the single practice that I am consistent in when it comes to smooching. I've done the swift-presentation-of-my-cheek-instead and I've banished men to the other side of the table we are sitting at with a "too soon." It rarely has to do with the gentleman and almost always has to do with my crippling self-doubt. In the spirit of being less of a f*cking bummer, I decided to investigate some Western traditions about kissing.

In crafting this new identity in which I become a woman who is unruffled by another brave person's desire to initiate lip contact with her, I decided to research the conventions surrounding kissing. Honestly, it brought me a lot of comfort. Especially because anthropologists are in fact divided on whether this practice of mouth-to-mouth in order to show affection is natural or learned behavior.

Kissing may have originated from "kiss feeding" — or, mothers feeding their children by chewing their food first. YUM! Or, kissing may have always been around as a form of "diet sex," as it has been written about in texts from the Kama Sutra to Romeo and Juliet. Either way, kissing is a little bit weird, especially when you do it for the first time. Here are some classic kissing traditions that basically mandate locking lips.

1. The New Year's Kiss

Why must we start our years by smacking our lips onto someone else's? Well, aside from being yet another occasion to shame single people into finding a partner and procreating and continuing to propel the human race, it might be due to some interesting historical traditions. The Ancient Romans celebrated Saturnalia, a festival that included drinking wine and kissing under a mistletoe around the winter solstice each year. Additionally, English and German folklore held a New Year's kiss as a great predictor for the year to come — good kiss, good love life. Either way, I've ducked out of no less than three of these in my lifetime.

2. The Mistletoe Kiss

See "Saturnalia" above. However, the mistletoe tradition gets a bit more interesting according to others. Mistletoe is thought to have once been used by the Celtic Druids to give to livestock in order to promote their fertility. They supposedly also hung the plant over their doors for good luck. Another Norse tale tells of the god of mischief, Loki, killing one of Thor's grandon's with a mistletoe arrow. To honor the power of mistletoe, the Norse people may have then hung it in their homes.

Later, but very pre-#MeToo, writers wrote about the mistletoe as a way to guarantee a kiss from a woman they fancied. (*Let's out exhaustive groan.*) Ask about old traditions, and you shall receive creepy information.

3. Kissing The Blarney Stone

The reason people kiss the Blarney Stone is to gain the gift of eloquence. Kissing the stone used to be rather precarious, but now you just need to hold on to iron railings and lean backwards to it. Totally chill. I've never kissed a rock in my life, but if I went to visit the Blarney Stone, I would absolutely kiss it. Knowing me, I would probably kiss it without even understanding why I was doing it, which is comical, because I understand why I'm kissing my dates yet still duck out of it.

4. French Cheek Kissing

Known as "la bise,dd" this tradition refers to the custom of kissing each other on two cheeks, even at work. Apparently, until the 17th century, French people kissed on the mouth as a greeting. Sounds terrible for flu season, TBH. With all of the #MeToo momentum, it seems that professional French women are beginning to opt for a handshake instead.

5. The Wedding Kiss

In the Middle Ages, men and women did not always know how to read or write, and drawing an "X" on a line and kissing it to make it legal was common practice. While there are many ideas about why the wedding kiss officially "seals the deal," a kiss was once an actual legal contract... so, there's that casual fact.

There is a multitude of strange reasons we now put our mouths together when we like each other. My personal new tradition is going to be to say "yes" to first kisses more, because hey, it's not like they're binding contracts anymore. As the French say, bisous!

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