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Kissing Customs and Fun Facts

A kiss is the most articulate way of communication. There are people that may confuse you with the way they express their affection, whether is too forward or way laid back. Especially, when you meet someone who comes from a different place on the globe, religion or culture, the first impression will most likely be shocking. This type of nonverbal communication is differently accepted in almost every country or region in the world. In China and Japan you might get in trouble if you try to kiss a local in a public place and you will be warned if you display too much affection also. Times are changing of course, and some Japanese families adopt the western wedding style, but the end kiss is still given on the cheek instead of the mouth. This is absurd if you ask an American couple who gave their wedding vows in Las Vegas, but traditions are traditions. So without further a due, let’s see where kissing will get you in trouble and where you will be expected to give big, wet and bewitching smooches.

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The Three Kisses Rule

The three kisses greeting is an Arab social gesture, but many other western countries kiss three times also. If you ever visit Turkey for instance, you will be obligated to kiss everyone you meet three times. In the East, this ritual is a sign of good will, friendship and acceptance. Men kiss men, women kiss men only if they are members of the family or really good family friends. Women kiss women three times also, while wishing good fortune or consoling each other. If you want to get really personal, you can put your hand on the other person’s shoulder and tap them slightly while you turn cheeks. Sometimes for visiting people, this gesture might get confusing and embarrassing. When you don’t want your heads shaking in the middle with your lips popped out, always go for the right cheek first. You should never actually kiss the person on their cheeks and some people don’t even touch their cheeks. Instead, you can kiss the air near their ear and make the kissing sound. Elderly, kids and people who you’ve longed for may be kissed more than three times, as it shows deep affection or admiration. Sometimes, between the three kisses, the greeter might pause to say something about your onset, presence or stay in their home, while shaking your hand firmly or tapping your shoulder. In Eastern European countries like, France, Netherlands, Italy and Belgium people kiss two times instead of three, but the number of kisses almost always depends on the type of circle people are in and their customs.

The three kisses rule is still a practice in Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia, as well as Egypt. In these countries, women may kiss men, men may kiss men and all other combinations are acceptable too. In Italy, Belgium as well as Mexico only one kiss is enough to tell somebody hello or goodbye. In Oman, a man might kiss the other man’s nose after their friendly handshake, which is usually a sign that their meeting went very well. In all of these countries the kissing ritual is practiced as a way to say hello and goodbye. In some parts of France you might even get four kisses if the host likes you or has been anticipating your arrival. In more conservative places however, when you first meet someone, you might not be a part of the kissing ritual, but they will surely give you a goodbye kiss. If you want to become a citizen of the Netherlands, you will have to pass the integration test called Inburgerings examen, in which you will be shown a picture of two gay men kissing. One question in the test will be how you would react if you see two gay men kissing in a public place.

Countries Not Very Fond of Kissing

Islamic countries do not allow any public display of love, and you can really get in trouble if you kiss someone is the middle of the street. Those who follow the path of Muhammad are not allowed to kiss a member of the opposite sex until they get married. Even then, kissing in public may ruin your reputation or earn you a fine in some parts of the world. Prince William and Kate didn’t kiss at the end of their wedding ceremony inside the Westminster Abbey church, to preserve the holiness of the moment. In Majorca, public kissing was banned by law in 1969. When 30 love couples protested they were all arrested and forced to pay around 200 dollars in order to be released. Russia tried to ban public kissing in 2003, but young people were outraged and showed their dissatisfaction with the new regulation. They were kissing strangers on the streets just to prove their point and the ban failed. On the opposite, if you ever travel with public busses in some Balkan countries, you can see posters in the window announcing that kissing is allowed. In Germany, kissing is not very favored. Instead of a smooch, you will get a handshake or a simple head nod. But if you are a lady, a gentleman may kiss the top of your hand. In American states such as Indiana and Connecticut, there are very bizarre anti-kissing laws. If you have mustaches in Indiana you are not allowed to kiss people habitually and a Hartford man is not allowed to kiss his wife on Sunday.

How the letter X Became a Kissing Symbol

Nowadays we send virtual kisses in online chats, text messages and private mails. We use the letter X and we think it’s because it’s shorter and more convenient. But X’s were used as kisses since medieval times. In those days not everyone was educated and knew how to read or write. But they still had to send packages, letters and documents and seal them somehow. Every delivery was done in front of witnesses as to avoid misplacement and the letter X was inserted on the package. That letter made the package legal as it was a sacred symbol for truth. The sender had to kiss the X in order to show sincerity and respect for the assignee. Later, people send virtual kisses in their correspondences. They wrote the letter X somewhere in their note and kissed it, so that the acceptor would know where the sender kissed it. There is another origin of the X letter. The papal slippers were made from red silk and satin, with ruby embroidered with golden tread to them in the form of a cross. When pilgrims were visiting the pope, they had to kneel before him and kiss the cross on the slippers or his ring as a sign of faith.

Kissing Customs throughout History

The Romans were the first civilization who spread the kissing ritual. If a Roman kissed you, that meant that you are worthy of his respect. Their kiss was the ultimate symbol of friendship and affection, so enemies didn’t get the chance to be smooched. Romans kissed each other on the mouth after a won battle and being kissed on the mouth in that time was a high social status indicator. If you were not very important to them or they didn’t like you very much, you would still get a kiss but on the hand, cloth or ring. As Christianity spread out through the world, the Roman church became concerned about this custom and how it encourages people on sinful lifestyles, so the mouth fixation slowly started waning. In the 16th century one kiss could give you the death penalty. And a stolen kiss would bring you to the Roman court, where you would have to pay a fine, depending on the injured party social status and rank. Knights kissed each other after their sparring tournaments and they were always kissed by the lord they protected. That was a way to say “thank you for your service”. Greeks kissed each other 7 or 8 centuries BC. King Priam was the ruler of Troy. Achilles killed his son during a jousting, took his body and dragged it to the Greek encampment outside of Troy. When he decided to give him back in favor of a proper funeral, king Priam kisses his hands in order to thank him. Egyptians, however, refused to kiss Greeks because they were feeding on their holy animal, the cow. Evidences support the fact that Egyptians did not actually kiss on the mouth or cheeks. Instead, just like Eskimos, they rubbed noses together.

There are large bulks of poetry from the New Kingdom, where you can see that sharing love was an important part of the Egyptian life, but kissing is mentioned nowhere. They were cuddling and sniffing each other without the western mouth to mouth fixation. Mouth to mouth pictures can be seen in ancient depictions from Amarna, but only mother to daughter or son, which is probably the way mothers feed their children in those times. Even though kissing the feet is a tradition reserved for ancient kings, in some parts of Africa you can still see tribe members kissing their chief’s feet or the ground he walked on. In the Old and New Testament, kissing is mentioned many times. There is a passage that says a man wants to divorce a woman because she did not kiss his feet once since they were married. Kisses were not shared at liberty between the sexes in the bible. A man can kiss his children, his wife or a friend, but it was not tolerable for women to kiss strangers or friends of the opposite sex. The first time when kissing is demonstrated as a contact that arouses sexual and sensual pleasure is in the Indian book, Kama Sutra. There is a whole chapter there that explains more than 30 different ways of kissing, when they are used and instructions on how to bring them into play to make your partner feel your affection. Most people consider French kissing to be the ultimate endearment, but this book dating from before our century will place the final curtain in your family, couples and sex life.

Kissing Traditions

If you have troubles persuading the ladies, kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland will give you the power to speak what’s on your mind. Winston Churchill kissed this stone and he is known as one of the greatest orators of all times. The story behind this magical stone is as follows: a woman was about to drown, but the king saved her life, so she wanted to thank him. Because the king already had everything, she how to bring them into play to make your partner feel your affection. Most people consider French kissing to be the ultimate endearment, but this book dating from before our century will place the final curtain in your family, couples and sex life.

Kissing Traditions

If you have troubles persuading the ladies, kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland will give you the power to speak what’s on your mind. Winston Churchill kissed this stone and he is known as one of the greatest orators of all times. The story behind this magical stone is as follows: a woman was about to drown, but the king saved her life, so she wanted to thank him. Because the king already had everything, she casts a spell on the stone and tells him to kiss it every time he wants to turn into a sweet talker. Since then, he has been able to convince anyone into anything.

Kissing under the mistletoe is another ancient custom. This plant was placed upon the heads of the bride and groom during their wedding ceremony, because of its many powers. Mistletoe was used as protection from the evil eye, as a booster for fertility, a natural aphrodisiac and immortality. If a man and woman found themselves standing under this plant, it was a sign they had to get married. It wasn’t until the 18th century that this plant was used as a Christmas decoration and until today, you have to kiss the person you meet standing under the mistletoe.

The New Year’s kiss is practiced everywhere. In some parts of the world is a custom to kiss as many people in the room as you can. If you don’t kiss anyone at midnight, the superstition says you have brought a year of loneliness upon yourself.

There are some scary kissing customs as well. The kiss of death remind many of Judas betraying Jesus right after he kissed him but if you know any mafia members and you get a surprise kiss from them, you better lock your doors. The name of this smooch is IL bacio Della morte and it may be a cultural meme, of course. This type of kiss is a sign that the person who got smooched has to be executed, usually after revealing some secret about the mafia family.

Unless you got the last one, all types of kisses will make your day. We spend more than 20,000 hours of our lives practicing the science of philematology (kissing), but studies showed you'll be happier if you kiss more. So you better learn and rehearse them all if you want to train your kissing muscles and break the thirty one hour world record in kissing.

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References

1. Greeting Customs Around the World: A guide through various interesting gestures and greeting cultures http://www.moveoneinc.com/blog/relocations/greeting-customs-around-the-world/

2. To Kiss Or Not To Kiss? Your Guide To Cheek Kissing Etiquette http://theanthrotorian.com/culture/2013/5/14/to-kiss-or-not-to-kiss-your-guide-to-cheek-kissing-etiquette

3. A Universal Language Understood Around the World — the kiss http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/02/14/a-universal-language-understood-around-the-world-%E2%80%94-the-kiss/

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