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Honeymoon PDF
Wednesday, 18 August 2010 00:00

Nearly three weeks into our prolonged honeymoon I decided to do a bit of research on the web into the origin and history of honeymoons .  Here’s what I found.


A hony moone (Old English) originally referred to the period just after the wedding when things are at their sweetest; it is assumed to wane after a month (Blimey!).

The term hony moone, was recorded as early as 1546 when the Merriam-Webster dictionary reported the etymology as from "the idea that the first month of marriage is the sweetest”.

One of the more recent citations in the Oxford English Dictionary indicates that, while today honeymoon has a positive meaning, the word was originally a reference to the inevitable waning of love like a phase of the moon. This, the first known literary reference to the honeymoon, was penned in 1552, in Richard Huloet's Abecedarium Anglico Latinum. Huloet wrote:

"Hony mone, a term proverbially applied to such as be newly married, which will not fall out at the first, but th'one loveth the other at the beginning exceedingly, the likelihood of their exceadinge love appearing to aswage, ye which time the vulgar people call the hony mone."   

One much earlier reference to a honeymoon appears in the Bible in Deuteronomy 24:5:

“When a man is newly wed, he need not go out on a military expedition, nor shall any public duty be imposed on him. He shall be exempt for one year for the sake of his family, to bring joy to the wife he has married.”

(Sounds good to me! They knew what they were doing back then!)

In Western culture, the custom of a newlywed couple going on a holiday together originated in early 19th century Great Britain, a concept borrowed from the Indian elite, in the Indian Subcontinent. Upper-class couples would take a "bridal tour", sometimes accompanied by friends or family, to visit relatives who had not been able to attend the wedding. The practice soon spread to the European continent and from the 1820s on was known in France as un voyage à la façon anglaise (English-style trip).

Honeymoons in the modern sense (ie a pure holiday voyage undertaken by the married couple) became widespread during the Belle Époque, as one of the first instances of modern mass tourism. This came about in spite of initial disapproval by contemporary medical opinion, which worried about women's frail health, and by savoir vivre guidebooks, which deplored the public attention drawn to what was assumed to be the wife's sexual initiation.

The most popular honeymoon destinations at the time were the French Riviera and Italy, particularly its seaside resorts and romantic cities such as Rome, Verona or Venice. (That’s just plain old hat – we’ve been doing Germany and the Netherlands and resorts such as Lübeck, St Peter-Ording, and Langweer ...)

In many parts of Europe it was traditional to supply a newly married couple with enough mead for a month, ensuring happiness and fertility (happiness is fine, but fertility ... at our age?).

From this practice we get honeymoon or, as the French say, lune de miel, the Spanish, luna de miel, the Portuguese, lua de mel, and the Italians, luna di miele. The Welsh for honeymoon is mis mêl, which translates as "honey month".

It is a fact that more than 90 per cent of German newlyweds take a honeymoon trip, more than any other nationality, according to a survey, (so Frau W and I are certainly keeping up with the Teutonic tradition!)

Well, research out of the way, here we are relaxing by a canal in Fryslan in northern Holland, waiting for a suitable wind to go sailing. Yesterday was wind force 5; we went out but it was a bit too risky to cross the lake we’d planned, so came back after a couple of hours. The day before there was no wind at all, so we remained in dock and went on a car trip to Sneek and Joure.

As I write I’m intrigued that quite unintentionally our extended honeymoon voyage has both Welsh and Indian elements; Welsh in that it’s a month long trip; Indian in the sense that we’ve visited numerous relatives and friends in Germany and on our sailing week here in Holland we’ve been accompanied by Frau W’s younger son (our skipper) and his girlfriend! 

No sign of any mead yet ...

Related articles:

Wedding Album

The big day!

Done and dusted!


© Paul Whitelock 





Paul Whitelock

Paul is a Joint Honours graduate in Spanish and German, a qualified teacher (PGCE) and has a Member of the Institute of Linguists (MIL) qualification.

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