MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Do People Kiss At Midnight on New Year’s Eve?

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, right on the cusp of New Year’s Day, maybe you were one of the millions of folks who partook in the tradition of kissing someone. Why do we do that? Why do we, traditionally, kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve?

It actually goes back, in part, to the hedonistic ancient Romans. During the Saturnalia winter festival, which was observed between December 17th & December 23rd and was intended to honor Saturn, the agricultural god, party-goers would get super intoxicated & incredibly handsy with each other (with plenty of kissing, as well).

But the Romans didn’t consider kissing to be a part of any genuine tradition. That actually is credited to the Vikings, who celebrated the winter festival of Hogmanay by kissing to wish each other a happy new year. They weren’t necessarily romantic exchanges, more like greetings to & from friends & family. That tradition subsequently made its way into the folklore of various other cultures & probably came to America with the arrival of German immigrants in the 19th century, as one early printed document from 1863 mentioned German revelers passing around “hearty kisses” at the stroke of midnight. Americans were quick to adopt it, and the kiss soon became as ubiquitous as toasting one another.

Another important reason for its popularity may have also been the advent of electricity, since gathering at midnight became way more practical with the advent of light bulbs which, in turn, led to more merriment being spread around in general. And it’s never too early to start planning your next New Year’s Eve shenanigans, so maybe start checking around now to see who’ll you’ll be with & asking if they can be sure to chew some gum in the lead-up to midnight.

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