This is why we kiss each other at midnight on New Year’s Eve — and it dates back thousands of years

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Jared Sluyter / Unsplash

  • Kissing at midnight on New Year’s Eve is a long held tradition.
  • It could date back to ancient Rome, where the Romans would hold debaucherous parties every year, full of kissing and alcohol.

A dilemma of single people everywhere is who you’re going to kiss when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.

There’s nothing lonelier than standing in a room of couples all bringing in the new year with locked lips, while you’re there sadly holding your Champagne and meekly singing along to “Auld Lang Syne.”

Like with most traditions, it’s meaningless. It’s not a sign you’ll spend the whole year miserable and alone if you don’t find someone who wants to kiss you. But also like other traditions, it does date back a long time.

Some historians trace it back to ancient Rome. The Romans knew how to party, and would throw a big celebration every year called the Festival of Saturnalia. Presumably, a lot of debauchery and kissing would happen, and this tradition filtered down to the rest of Europe.

Saturnalia is also a part of why we kiss under mistletoe. In ancient Greece, to celebrate the festival, people would kiss underneath the parasitic plant because it was associated with fertility. The Romans would reconcile differences with enemies under mistletoe, as it represented peace.

Later on, during the Renaissance, masquerade balls were popular across Europe. Bustle reported that at midnight, people would remove their masks, and kisses were a way of purifying each other from evil. It was a way of starting the new year with a clean slate.

English and German folklore built on this idea, and spread the superstition that a midnight kiss strengthens a budding romance, and avoiding it could mean a loveless year ahead.

Wherever the idea really originated, it’s likely not based on anything concrete. It is a fun tradition, though, and it’s always nice to have someone around to bring the new year in with.

However, if you’re really worried about being kiss-less at the beginning of the new year, then you might want to go to Scotland.

During Hogmanay, the Scottish new year celebration, it is traditional to give a kiss to everyone in the room. The idea is to connect friends and strangers, and it also makes the single people feel a bit better.