“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”
— William Shakespeare
If the Bard, in his famous romance “Romeo and Juliet” claimed names are less important than emotions, the same may be said about defining “honeymoon” or trying to discover the word’s original root or meaning. Many cultures speak of the “honey month” so Welsh couples celebrate “mis mél.” In Hebrew the word becomes “Yerach D’vash” while in Arabic it is “Shahr el’ assal.” The Persian version is “mah e asal.” More familiar to western ears are the Spanish “la luna de miel” and Italian “luna di miele” that describe the “moon of honey.”
No ultimate source can be found among the many legends and theories about the term “honeymoon” though many references equate “moon,” “month” and “mead” when referring to a bridal pair spending a period of time sipping an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey and water. Some theories that include a bit of cynicism claim the term alludes to the waxing and waning of the moon’s phases when romantic love is “full” in the “honeymoon” period before routines of marriage gain the upper hand.
The idea, still prevalent, that says the period immediately following a marital ceremony is a chance for the couple to find a getaway or hideaway is said to be rooted in the unpronounceable Norse word “hjunottsmanathr” from which many folk tales derive. It describes the abduction by a man (often aided by his friends) of a woman from a neighboring village who is kept isolated until they return when the lady becomes pregnant.
Just as bridal showers and marriage ceremonies are steeped in tradition, they and honeymoons now vary so vastly “almost anything goes.” Consider the multitude of sentimental songs that rhyme the word honeymoon with “boon, loon, noon, soon, swoon” and especially “June,” once favored as THE month in which to get married, followed by Valentine’s Day and then Christmas or New Year’s. Now, any and all months are chosen just as honeymoon destinations and desires are highly individualized and as varied as the couples planning theirs.
Since the first honeymoon taken by newlyweds, mementos of that special time have been collected. From postcards to frying pans, honeymoon items have been popular collectibles.