Anthropologists have two schools of thought regarding kissing. One school will tell you that it is instintual and intuitive while the other school says that it began with "kiss feeding." a process by where mothers transfer chewed food to their infants. Whichever school you think is right, there is undeniable evidence that kissing has been around a very long time.
The earliest references to kissing-like behavior date back 3,500 years to the Vedas, Sanskit scriptures from the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religions. During the Classical period, affectionate mouth-to-mouth kissing is described in the Hindu epic "Mahabharata." Academics who have studied kissing (the homework and research must have been fun!) say that it spread slowly to other parts of the world after Alexander the Great conquered Punjab, northern India, in 326 B.C. Kissing is also mentioned in Sumerian poetry, as well as in the ancient Egyptian poetry, New Kingdom, excavated at Deir el-Medina. There are references to kissing in the Old Testament, too; Genesis 27:26. And later, the first Biblical man-woman kiss is referenced in Genesis 31:11.
In the 5th century B.C. the Persians talk about kissing as a form of greeting. A kiss on the mouth was for persons of equal status, while a kiss on the cheek was saved for those of inferior status. We can give credit to the Romans for spreading kissing to Europe and Africa. In Medieval times, kissing wasn't about love, but about showing respect and rank. The study of kissing began in the 19th century and is called Philematology.
Romantic kissing, in Western cultures is fairly recently. Poets and writers have long written about the kiss and it's power. Charles Furster, a 20th century behavioral psychologist has said, "we all yearn for kisses and we all seek them; it is idle to struggle against this passion. No one can evade the omnipotence of the kiss ..." Kissing, he implies, can lead one to maturity: "It is through kisses that a knowledge of life and happiness first comes to us."
Not every culture universally accepts kissing and in different places, the kiss can mean different things. In China, kissing is done by rubbing one's nose against the cheek of another. In most Eastern cultures, mouth kissing is not common. The "sniff kiss" is most common in South east Asian countries. In some tribal cultures, "kiss me" becomes "smell me." The Eskimos simply rub noses.
As we've just leaned, a kiss can mean, affection, love, friendship, respect, and many other things. It all depends on where you live and how you grew up. Here in Land of Lily Pad, kissing is popular and practiced as often as possible. Kissing is our way to show affection to everyone; from the littlest tadpole right on up to our great-grandparents. It brings us joy and happiness.
Whoever, or whatever, you choose to kiss this Valentine's Day (hey, I don't judge) just be sure that it comes from the heart. Nothing's as bad as a faked kiss. And remember, "air kisses" don't count.
See you back here tomorrow for a rare Saturday blog. I'll share with you many of the Valentine's Day customs from around the world.