Why We Kiss At Midnight On New Year's Eve

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A look at the history of the New Year's Eve kiss.

New Year's Eve is the last hurrah of the year, the culminating event in a holiday binge of eating, drinking and celebrating. It's a time to don glitzy outfits, reflect on the past, and ponder future resolutions. And then there's the kiss at the stroke of midnight.

Whether you ring in the new year by watching the Times Square ball drop from your living room TV or toasting champagne at an upscale nightclub, tradition makes a case for celebrating the new year with people you enjoy. According to English and German folklore, the first person you encounter in a new year—and the nature of this encounter—sets the tone for the rest of the year. A kiss is about strengthening ties you wish to maintain in the future. If a couple celebrating together doesn't take the time to lock lips, it doesn't bode well for the relationship. 

For single people, there's a superstition that not kissing anyone portends a year of loneliness… and probably a lot of bad online dating. (OK, I made that last part up.) Then again, kissing some sleazy random who may or may not have a girlfriend is worse than kissing no one at all. 

Passionate New Year's Eve kisses have featured prominently in popular culture. In Bridget Jones's Diary, a New Year's Eve kiss brings Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy back together. The Godfather: Part II also features an emotional New Year's Eve kiss, but this one's not about sexual tension. Instead, Michael Corleone gives his brother Fredo a furious kiss of death after being betrayed.

The New Year's Eve kiss at the end of When Harry Met Sally is the beginning of happily-ever-after for the two estranged friends, and it's just as memorable as the fake orgasm scene at the deli. Harry finally admits he's in love with Sally.

"It's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible," he says. Sally's shocked response: "That is just like you, Harry. You say things like that, and you make it impossible for me to hate you."

Too bad we can't all have what she's having. Like any other holiday, New Year's Eve can put a great deal of stress on those of us without plus-ones. Last year, Mary, 40, of Brooklyn, NY, ditched New Year's plans she'd made with friends because she didn't want to be the one single person in the group. Mary stayed at home—where a New Year's kiss wasn't a possibility or a threat—and she ended up regretting the decision.  Keep reading... 

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