“V-J Day in Times Square” (Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
If you have someone to kiss this Valentine’s Day, or even if you don’t, Texas A&M University Professor of Anthropology Vaughn Bryant has the scoop on the smooch.
Kissing is good for your health
Kissing releases hormones and endorphins that relieve stress, help us recover from depression, lower our blood pressure, and can make us feel younger. “It can evoke euphoria that might last for days,” Bryant said.
The origins of kissing are hotly debated
Some say kissing started millions of years ago as a result of mouth-to-mouth feeding between animals and their young, or as a sign of submission and dominance between apes.
But Bryant said the most likely origin has to do with smell. Early humans may have recognized one another by smell, developing a practice known as the “sniff kiss,” seen in a number of cultures, whereby people smelled each other’s cheeks as a greeting. The earliest and best references to kissing come from India where “kiss” and “sniff” were referred to by the same word. Numerous Indian texts, including the Kama Sutra, refer to several different types of kissing, so Bryant said kissing as we know it today likely originated in ancient India.
The French have gotten undue credit
We can thank India, as well, for what is today known as French kissing, Bryant said.
“The reason the French got the credit was due to the great number of travelers who went to France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” he said. “The French women were warm-natured and thought nothing of kissing rich American men visiting Paris. This was a change from the Puritan-bred New England women. Thus upon their return, the men would say ‘While in France, get the girls to kiss you.’ This later became ‘get a French kiss.'”