It began with a kiss ...

Kellie Brierley on what makes New Year’s Eve so special, and not just for movies

It began with a kiss ...

NEW Year’s Eve night — when loved ones turn to their nearest and dearest to ring in the year with the traditional midnight kiss.

The countdown kiss is not an excuse for an old smooch — it has sentimental and historic meaning. It dates to the ancient Romans when, on New Year’s Eve, they hosted the Festival of Saturnulia at winter solstice. They would kiss and often the kisses would lead to a night of debauchery.

As time passed on, so did the ritual. The English and Germans celebrated New Year’s Eve by kissing the first person they met when the clock struck midnight. Their superstition? If you share a midnight kiss with a lover, good things are promised throughout the year.

The kiss, the story goes, is about strengthening ties you wish to maintain in the future with that special person. If you fail to kiss, you are left with bad luck in love for the new year.

With all those romantic connotations, it’s no wonder Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon — many movies feature famous countdown kisses.

There was Bridget Jones’s Diary’s famous closing scene in the snow — a new diary in hand, Darcy breaks away from their kiss to tell her New Year’s Eve is a chance for a “fresh start”.

About a Boy sees Will (Hugh Grant) meet and kiss Rachel Weisz at the stroke of midnight at a New Year’s Eve party, and even Sex and the City The Movie got in on the act, with the two main gay characters, Stanford and Anthony, finally getting it together to the strains of Auld Lang Syne.

But the most famous of them all is When Harry Met Sally. How often does the line “I hate you” lead to a kiss?

“It’s not because I’m lonely,” Harry (Billy Crystal) tells Sally (Meg Ryan) in a scene that will forever go down in movie history, “and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Hollywood saw to it that the romantic connotations were firmly established — hence the surge in popularity of New Year’s Eve marriages.

This year, the big ticket is Playboy founder Hugh Hefner’s wedding — he’s set to marry his 26-year-old fiancée Crystal Harris, on Dec 31 at the Playboy Mansion.

Other celebrity couples who have tied the knot on New Year’s Eve are Will and Jada Smith. The couple wed in 1997 and are happily celebrating their 15th anniversary this month.

Then there was Kate Hudson, who married Chris Robinson on New Year’s Eve (unfortunately, the date doesn’t guarantee a ‘happily ever after’).

For us, the people in the ‘real world’, there are a couple of destinations that can guarantee you a New Year’s Eve liplock.

In Venice, they don’t celebrate with just a single kiss; they pucker up for a group smooch. Every year, thousands gather in St Mark’s Square to take part in the communal kiss.

To top it off, their tradition is to wear red underwear — for luck, they insist.

Then there is Paris, the city of love. It’s a country that uses kisses to say ‘hello’, so it’s no surprise they wholeheartedly adopted the New Year’s Eve kiss.

Locals gather along the bridges of the Seine, shout ‘bonne année’ at the stroke of midnight — and embrace each other with a kiss.

Paris is perhaps the ultimate destination to be on New Year’s Eve. It was here, after all, that the most iconic photograph of a kiss was taken by Robert Doisneau in 1950.

His image of a couple kissing in the busy Parisian streets became an internationally recognised symbol of young love (the identity of the couple wasn’t revealed until 1992).

More in this section

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.

great irish summer

From walking and hiking, to day trips and camping, your guide to holidays at home in 2021


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up