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The History of Honeymoons

Updated on August 22, 2014
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Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.

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I am sure you know what a honeymoon is, its a short break a newlywed couple take after the wedding to spend some quality time alone together. It is a fine tradition with a rich history, isn't it?

Don't worry this isn't a article about some convoluted conspiracy by the tourism industry to bilk you of your money for a made up occasion, I promise not to ruin the romance of the honeymoon.

Etymology of the Word Honeymoon

There is some doubt as to the true history of the word honeymoon, I have seen some pretty good ideas bandied about, but the one I find most believable is, of corse, related to mead. I know, you are probably saying, "really Jeff, is EVERYTHING mead for you?" Well I'd have to answer honestly and say, "well sure, isn't it" then proceed to challenge you to prove otherwise, but then again I like mead and I love to stir up debate about nonsensically mundane issues. In all seriousness though I can demonstrate a link between mead and the word honeymoon, I know, scoff all you like, but read on faithful reader, I shan't let you down.

The Irish Invented Everything, Including Honeymoons

Those crafty buggers from the emerald isles seem to lay claim to everything don't they? I mean heck there's even a book that claims the Irish saved civilization, it may be true it may not, I'll leave that up to anyone who's brave enough to read that book (its good, seriously). I digress, surely the irish didn't invent everything, but as any true irishman (ok I'm not Irish, but my alter ego in the SCA is, oh ya, and my grandfather was as well, so I will still maintain that I AM an Irishman) such as myself will tell you they did invent everything worthwhile, and so they can claim ownership of the history of the honeymoon.

The Irish symbolism of the honeymoon was actually a fertility rite. You see honey is extremely symbolic in ancient Irish lore, it is a symbol of fertility. The bride's father was responsible for providing enough honey and mead for the couple to live off for a month, or a full cycle of the moon, which was known as the honeymoon, this abundance of honey and honey products such as mead was said to ensure the couples fertility and all but guaranteed the couple would produce a child.

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The History of Honeymooning

Although the word honeymoon can be traced back to the Irish, they aren't responsible for the modern practice of the honeymoon. The earliest reference to something even close to a honeymoon can be found in the bible, specifically the book Deuteronomy which states "When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken." (King James Bible Deuteronomy 24:5). Clearly this is not the same as the honeymoon practice that is known and loved now.

Honeymoons first became popular in the late 19th century, originally mainly for the upper class, and have continued to grow in popularity until it became a rarity for a couple not to go on a honeymoon even if they weren't rich. Now the honeymoon industry is a massive tourism industry making untold fortunes and fulfilling the dreams of brides and grooms the world over

© 2014 Jeff Johnston

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      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thanks for sharing. We went to the Wisconsin Dells... over 55 years ago! ;-)