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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Reasons for People to Kiss

Credit: Smirf Dave
The feeling of kissing a bride

Kissing is a cultural practice that people use for different reasons. Some people also kiss their pet animals, and even valuable things to them.

When people get married, each feels boiling until the priest or the pastor allows the bride and the groom to kiss each other. I believe you have at once attended a wedding of a friend, if not your own. You could not wait for the time for kissing, isn’t it? Each of us is familiar with that moment after the exchange of wows when the priest proclaims that we may now kiss the bride.

I personally have been to many weddingss where that announcement seems to catch the couple unaware. It is some sort of drama, full of hesitations and miscalculated gestures. In the same context I have also been to other weddings where the couple decide, with all due respect to the pastor or the priest, to skip that bit. They simply hug and the ceremony goes on without the different complications of this interpersonal gesture.

In my growing up days, such moments have always raised several questions in my mind. Is it really at that moment that the couple is actually expected to kiss for the first time in their coexistence? Or are they simply shy, given the public spectacle? Who is permitted to kiss who when, how and for how long? And finally, what is all this about for the couple and the audience at the ceremony? Some would argue this is a bedroom affair or even the couple cannot kiss in public satisfactorily. So this is a church kiss, which differs from, for instance the bedroom kiss.

In some more civilized societies, this may not raise questions because kissing is a daily activity of lovers and they can do it anywhere in any way they like. This brings in the notion of culture, which brings differences among people. Public display of affection remains so much a part of Western cultures that no one makes a big deal out of it.

However, in African cultures, this is different. The exchange of whatever nature of kiss on public roads would attract attention at any time. The kissing couple may only be excused in cases but they look obviously foreign. Still they will be object to criticisms.

Some people go beyond this and they can even kiss their pet animals that are dogs, cats, cows, horses, etc. The question is, do they also kiss them for affection or greeting? The answer is affirmative. Once again, this is culture. Kissing a pet animal means something to its owner. Yet, in African context this could not be well considered and the person doing so would be considered as mentally sick, therefore someone to cast from human community.

If you are given something you like very much, you will not hesitate to kiss it. This is symbolic and the offerer feels to have offered something valuable, which means to some extent he or she motivates you to offer more. For instance, in a soccer game, the players who lifted the cup will kiss it before they hold it up and pour down the stadium singing, dancing, shouting to express their joy. They will kiss and kiss that cup, each player in his turn, which shows the joy they have and sometimes forget after a very tiresome game.

The big question remains, where does kissing originate from? Based on the explanations of scholars, kissing has been among human beings for a long time, even in Africa. Besides, they argue that it has not been simply thrown upon us by the different instruments of globalization. Nicolas is the writer of ‘the kiss: sacred and profane.’ To him, kissing has been part of many cultures including African cultures as back as 2000 BC. Accordingly, one famous theory of the origins of kissing suggests that it originated form a practice where an adult, frequently a mother, chews food and then transfers it when already soft to the mouth of her infant. This is what he refers to as a maternal kiss; this is still used to feed infants in some rural areas of Africa due to extreme poverty as mothers can’t afford buying feeding bottles. In the context of Europe, there existed what was called romantic gesture. This consisted of a kind of game where a young man could let a tip of a piece of tobacco show between his closed teeth and invite a girl to grasp it with her teeth. This would require the girl to press her mouth firmly to that of the man as she need to pull the cigarette out the man’s mouth. In India, the story seems different. Indians believed that the exhaled breath was part of the soul.Therefore, bringing one’s mouth close to that of a fellow meant the intermingling of the souls.

This, in fact, seemed to be an earlier version of the Eskimos’ nose kiss. This said, many people would argue that kissing is related to paganism. This is often considered in comparison to the kiss Judas gave to Jesus as a sign of betrayal. But if we consider history, kissing in some communities is a daily way of greeting people. And though Judas used it in a context of his and no one could guess his kiss was for killing. It was used in their area as a way of greeting an important person, who was Jesus here. Kissing was widespread in the Roman Empire and this what Romans used to do on the mouth of their friends once they met on the way, which was a dignified way of greeting people.

In the same context, one Roman emperor even decided to rank people’s importance based on the body part that he was allowed to kiss. He decided and allowed important nobles to kiss his lips and less important ones to kiss his hands and the least important ones to kiss his feet. It is only in the sixth century that society accepted people to use the custom of kissing between adults as an expression of their affection and France was the first country to formally accept kissing in courtship. Figure dancing was the rage, and each dance was sealed with a kiss.

The custom of kissing swept from France through Europe to Russia. Eventually, the kiss was incorporated into marriage ceremonies. If we turn to Africa, kissing has for a long time been part and parcel of the greeting culture in Rwanda and Burundi, particularly. And while many people have no problems with kissing between a man and a woman, it becomes very normal in some cultures to have two men kissing as a part of greeting.

The advantages of kissing are various. This is supported by scientists who ascertain that kissing advantages vary from its amazing advantages ranging from fighting plaque to weight control. In the same vein, it is also claimed that a kiss prevents the initial formation of stress hormones blamed for high blood pressure, insomnia and many evils that are destructive for our health.

This, in fact, means that kissing would calm down one’s nervous system quite effectively and rid oneself of stress. And since some categories of kissing cause some tension in over 30 facial muscles, it could have the effect of increasing blood circulation, hence a cosmetic advantage of smoothing out the skin. While some forms of kissing might turn heads even in the most civilized cultures, certain types of kissing are now generally widely acceptable as a part of social interaction.

Therefore if you are like me and that translation of the verb to kiss in your local language is long, winding descriptive phrase, we still have some decisions to make. All in all, experiments on the social scene can sometimes be so embarrassing but in case it is not part of you and it does not fit you at all, it should be then better for you to smile and avoid it. That’s kissing.

A somewhat related article that you may be interested in:

The Strong and Deep Meanings of the African Dance




About the Writer

MUGISHO N.THEOPHILE is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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3 comments on Reasons for People to Kiss

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By Rwigemera Steven on August 22, 2011 at 01:12 pm

wonderful article, mugisho. Kissing has also consequences if for instance the person you kiss has contaminable diseases, you may conyract them as well. Also people should keep their mouth clean for not discouraging those who want to kiss them, and avoid smoking.

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By MUGISHO N.THEOPHILE on August 22, 2011 at 01:33 pm

tteven, thank you for your comment. Sure, not only kissing has advantages but also consequences. Non smokers would not like to kiss someone smelling tobacco in the mouth, this would discourage him. Also people who eat strong tasting food, such as garlic or even curry, would make sure the person they are to kiss also takes them as well. Before kissing a person, the kisser should be sure his or her mouth tastes good, which may require them to permanently see the dentist for de escaling the teeth that may hurt the peson to kiss; and finally, eating healthy diet will give the mouth fresh breath, which gives the kisser comfort.

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By MUGISHO N.THEOPHILE on August 22, 2011 at 01:35 pm

Steven, I am sorry to have mispelt your name; my fingers were faster that my brain. The mistake is mine, thank you.

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