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A honeymoon is the traditional holiday taken by newlyweds (or between two people in an early harmonious period in a relationship) to celebrate their marriage in intimacy and seclusion. Today, honeymoons by Westerners are sometimes celebrated somewhere exotic or otherwise considered special and romantic.

History

Possibly the earliest reference to a honeymoon is in “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.”

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

Honeymoons in the modern sense (i.e. 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 Rivieramarker and Italymarker, particularly its seaside resorts and romantic cities such as Romemarker, Veronamarker or Venicemarker. Typically honeymoons would start on the night they were married.

Etymology

The Oxford English Dictionary offers no etymology, but gives examples dating back to the 16th century. The Merriam-Webster dictionary reports the etymology as from "the idea that the first month of marriage is the sweetest" (1546).

A honeymoon can also be the first moments a newly-wed couple spend together, or the first holiday they spend together to celebrate their marriage.

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 writes:

In many parts of Europe it was traditional to supply a newly married couple with enough mead for a month, ensuring happiness and fertility. From this practice we get honeymoon or, as the French say, lune de miel.

There are many calques of the word honeymoon from English into other languages. The French form translates as "moon of honey" or "honey moon", as do the Spanish (luna de miel), Italian (luna di miele), and Greek (μήνας του μέλιτος) equivalents. The Welsh word for honeymoon is mis mêl, which translates as "honey month", and similarly the Polish (miesiąc miodowy), Arabic (shahr el 'assal), and Hebrew (yerach d'vash) versions. (Interestingly, Yerach is used for month, rather than the more common Chodesh. Yerach is related to the word Yare'ach for moon and the two words are spelled alike: ירח.) The Persian word is mah e asal which has both the translations "honey moon" and "honey month" (mah in Persian meaning both moon and month). The same applies to the word ay in the Turkish equivalent, balayı.

References




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