This summer my nine year old grandson was with me for ten weeks.  As I tucked him in bed one night, he mentioned, “Mommy and Daddy think it is odd you kiss me on the lips.”  It certainly is not odd for me!  I began thinking about the customs of kissing and how different kissing is from culture to culture.

When we moved to Canada a couple dozen years ago, I was taken aback by the kissing culture I encountered there.  Even though we had lived in the same vicinity before, I had not experienced this “new” kissing culture.  Particularly in the social life of the business world, it was expected that you greet others, sometimes strangers, with a kiss on one cheek or sometimes both cheeks.  I was very uncomfortable with all this kissing of men and women!  I never knew on which cheek I would be kissed first, or if it would be a two-cheek kiss.  Sometimes, it was a touch cheek to cheek with a kiss into the air.  My assumption is the different methods came from different countries of the world – mainly from Europe.  When to do what?  Then the embarrassing thing would happen once in a while (usually with a man!) that you would guess wrong on which cheek to peck and you would end up kissing on the lips inadvertently!  Ick!

In my hometown culture of rural NY State, you did not kiss anyone but relatives and very close friends.  Parents and children kissed going off to school or maybe to other activities.  Other kisses happened when you were parting, not just for a day, but for a period of time.  And these kisses were on the mouth!  I mean, why kiss if it isn’t on the mouth?  You might kiss a sleeping baby or your young child on the head, forehead, cheek, or whatever as a love pat.  But a kiss meaning you had deep regard and friendship-love for that person was on the lips. My brother eleven years older was very kissy-wissy to my chagrin!  I was his “Honeybee.”  Oh, my.  He was always kissing me.  I remember telling him I preferred candy kisses to his kisses!

Kissing did not happen between genders unless within the immediate family.  It was woman to woman kissing.  Though I do remember my mother kissing a traveling evangelist who usually stayed at our house when he came to town.  As they cheerfully greeted each other, my mother quoted scripture (I Thessalonians 5:26)  “greet the brethren with a holy kiss” and planted one on him.  There was nothing sexual about it.  It was simply a kiss of joy.

All of these kisses are stiff, hard, quick kisses, not soft mushy ones which are reserved only for those who are in love.   I kissed my parents on the lips to their dying day.  I also kissed my Canadian in-law parents.  No one else in the family kissed them.  For me, it was the natural thing to do.

I thought some explanation was necessary for Kevin’s parents since they think I am “odd.”   His mother told me, in her homeland of Poland, a greeting is three kisses — first on one cheek, then the other cheek, and a third kiss back on the first cheek.  NO one but lovers kiss on the lips.

Though I am a kiss-on-the-lips person,  there aren’t many to kiss on the lips anymore.  It has been five years since I kissed my daughter, and I last kissed her on her marble-cold lips before the casket was closed.  My son tries to avoid even cheek kisses, but he does accept hugs.  It is a new world having an alien spouse.  I don’t expect or want kisses from him though greeting and saying goodbye is just awkward.  I saw him recently for the first time in almost a year.  He is still in the Canadian culture of kissing cheeks.  He went for my cheek, and I averted.  When he left, he planted a peck on my lips in front of our kids and grandkids. I am happy to be in Texas where you greet with a “howdy” and a hefty handshake!  My three youngest grandsons are still kissable!  We also do butterfly and Eskimo kisses too!  Their kisses are the BEST!

Please tell about your kissing customs!


About 9awalsh

A genealogist and writer who has uncovered legacy stories which must be told. I also write a blog, Deciphering Life, trying to figure out why life becomes so tangled --
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5 Responses to Kissing

  1. Ruth Watts says:

    I used to kiss my mom on the lips. No one else, ever, except someone I was in love with. However, in our church everyone greets everyone else with a hug. When I first came there, I hated that! After a while I found myself grabbing and hugging everyone everywhere. Oh dear! Of course, it is a hug around the neck, with little or no body contact, maybe touching cheek to cheek. (Anyone who hugs the opposite sex tightly to their body is out of line!) A few give a peck on one cheek. I have found myself appreciating this extra little sign of regard and affection, and will occasionally do the same – especially when there is gratitude involved. It seems a bit more warm than a hug.


    • 9awalsh says:

      Thanks, Ruth! I agree – body hugs can be a bit out of line. Hugging or even cheek kissing of people who are dear to us is one thing, but such affection on everyone is just uncomfortable, yet considered appropriate in some circles. I guess, we have to adopt the customs where we live.


  2. jack seibert says:

    I believe the word “kiss” appears about 14 times in the scriptures, 5 in the OT and 7 in the NT., usually showing as a token of friendship or homage to a superior, such as Judas kissing Jesus. The term “holy kiss” is used 5 times, all in the NT . Prov. 24:26 says “an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips”. A kiss was definitely a part of history and most all past cultures. The ancient Greeks are infamous for their nudity. However the early Christian writers state that in the apostolic age, such kissing was used in forms of worship and not between genders. (Freeman, James, Manners and Customs of the Bible, Logos International, 1972, p.456.) The holy kiss term would not be referring to any common manner then, so don’t blame any of this on God.

    Romans 14:6-16, in reference to eating meat that had been sacrificed in the temple, challenges us to not offend anyone in any manner. This logically includes to our language, music, entertainment and many other cultural activities including kissing, wouldn’t you think? I remember up through my teenage years not being allowed to participate in numerous activities because of what someone might think if they saw me, a Christian, going to movies, dances, pool halls, or anything else questionable. The present day Amish, Mennonite, etc. currently take on a visual distinction and practice also.

    Being that your grandson was taken back by the fact of being kissed on the lips, speaks to his instinct that he might have picked up from our culture from multiple sources. He probably considers the kissing on the lips as what those “mushy people” do on TV as a personal violation or invasion, in contrast to his cheek or forehead.

    Especially for preteenagers, one’s truth about you comes often from perception, not your intentions. Personally, I am uncomfortable kissing any person not family, even on the cheek. With either gender, I am very careful to makes sure they have no way possible to be offended. With another man, I will extend my right hand for a handshake, come closer, and then hug with my left arm, maybe putting my chin on their shoulder. To hug a woman, I usually will just put my hands on her elbows or upper arms and then maybe bend over to put my chin on her shoulder. And this is rarely, if ever, done when the two of us are alone. Of course, family is different. But even then, still never a kiss on the lips for even them. My lip-to-lip kisses are only for my wife. Again, one’s truth about you often comes from perception, not your intentions.

    We are wise to keep our mistakes small. Is all of this over-reactive? Maybe and probably. In this litigious and sexual society, what is the bigger mistake, being “too handsy or kissy” or “slightly standoff-ish”? I shudder if a woman approaches me with her arms outstretched, ready to give me a hug with full frontal body contact, with a “holy” kiss possibly to follow. Undoubtedly, many horror gossip stories that have started from something like that. That is our culture. I have a Korean woman friend who I offended by initiating a hand shake. Her culture is that the woman is to initiate any hand shake. Again, the apostle Paul warns to avoid even the appearance of evil and sadly in our society that probably includes most all lip-to-lip kissing.


  3. 9awalsh says:

    Interesting to read your thoughts on scriptural kissing, and I too remember being taught to not do anything which would cause another to stumble. I guess, we were in the same church with the same pastor! 😉
    Kevin is not adverse to lip kissing with Grandma. In fact, on a day I am leaving to go home and drop him at school, he initiates the goodbye lip kiss before jumping out of the car. But he is getting older, and it will not be long before it will NOT cool to kiss Grandma goodbye, hello, or goodnight.
    Thanks for your insights, Jack!


  4. mpschrauwers says:

    Being from Quebec, Canada, cheek kissing is all I ever did! Where I grew up, whomever you met, stranger, male, female, relative, business acquaintances, you HAD to kiss, on both cheek! (The left side first, FYI!) We touched cheeks and pursed lips to one side to sort of touch the person’s cheek. My family was not touchy feely. I was astounded when I came to Ontario and a lot of people would hug!! Hugging was NOT my custom and made me somewhat uncomfortable. I was 18 when I moved and I cannot remember being hugged before then. I adjusted; I was young and malleable. My father has wanted to kiss on the lips but I dislike it. I would have kissed my mother on the lips but would never dare to try. I kiss my children on the lips, numerous times a day. I have noticed that their paternal grand mother also wants a kiss on the lips but they present their cheeks. My husband also kisses them on the lips. I hope it never stops.


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