Thursday, January 8, 2009


After ten years of marriage, my honey and I finally went on one of those moon things. This got me wondering about the origin of this sweet custom—honeymoons.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the roots of the honeymoon are far from romantic and date to the era of Attila the Hun! (Hunnymoon?) First, it involved abduction of the bride-to-be from a neighboring village. The groom had to go into hiding with her from her family. Naturally, her relatives would be frantically searching for their missing daughter and sister. The groom’s best man was the only person who knew their whereabouts. Honeymoon is from an ancient Norse word that means hiding. Though the folklore is from the fifth century, this doesn’t sound far from a cave man dragging his woman around by her hair.

Second, the honey in the word comes from honeyed mead. The moon portion simply refers to the monthly lunar cycle. The Scandinavian custom in the first months of marriage was to drink the honeyed wine nightly. Even for those couples who actually wanted to hook up, village life was too work-heavy for newlyweds to loll around for long drinking mead or drinking in each other’s eyes. The idea grew from this that no month of marriage would be as sweet as the first with the ritual honeyed mead, especially after you have to get on with “real life.”

Attila took the abduction and mead aspects of honeymooning to new heights—well, more like lows. He was King of the Huns from 433-453 A.D. King Hunny himself not only absconded with another man’s wife, he eventually drank himself to death on mead.

In the Western world, the custom of newlyweds going on a holiday together after marriage is compliments of the British in the 19th century. Nowadays, honeymoons tend to be taken in seclusion to exotic places, or at least somewhere the couple considers special or romantic.

We just came back from Hawaii. We went on a
whale-watching cruise and saw the Pearl Harbor Memorial on Oahu. Then we moved onto the Big Island of Hawaii for a week. The main event for us there was swimming with the dolphins followed by a helicopter ride over a live volcano. More details on this trip of a lifetime in another post.

Time, money, circumstances—they just never came together for us to do this until now. But we have something else that made it feel more urgent. Tim, my husband, has a medical condition that affects his mobility. While he’s still walking, he’s not getting around as well as he used to, and he has less endurance. We don’t know what the future will bring. We feel fortunate that Tim has gotten to be a sexagenarian with so much quality of life. Yet we don’t know about tomorrow. So, we swam with the dolphins while we could—something on his “Bucket List”— hang the expense.

Isn’t that how boomers should live their lives, anyway? Even if you don’t have something like a health issue nudging you:

We never know how much sand is in our hourglass.
We do know that by this time of our lives,
there’s more on the bottom than on the top.

I remember one of the sweetest moments in the movie “
Michael,” where a rag-tag angel visiting earth, played by John Travolta, is melancholy as his time to leave draws near. He looks around then stares at the sunset and says, “I’m really going to miss this place.” This recollection, written before the trip, became more ironic during it when John lost his young son to a seizure while we were in Hawaii. How truly unpredictable life can be …

So, grab your honey and get every last drop of nectar out of this time around. Where we go next may be even more spectacular. But if an angel—even a fictional one who has been both places— is reluctant to leave Earth, surely we should live every second of life here to the hilt.


Photo © Yakov Stavchansky

Sources for this post were The Honeymoon by Charles Panati and Wikipedia.


Pat Montgomery said...

This is so great! I knew about the honeyed mead, but not Attila! Very interesting.

As far as your honeymoon--good for you. Too often, too many of us delay or neglect things we really want to do. I know that we don't have to do all we WANT, but sometimes we have to nourish our souls by doing just that.

Prayers for you and your husband!

Beverly Mahone said...

My husband and I were deciding between Hawaii and St. Lucia when we got married and I chose St. Lucia. I am so glad I did! It was heaven and paradise all wrapped into one--similar to what it sounds like you experienced.

Congratulations on the honeymoon and I hope you didn't drink too much "honey" :) Or maybe that's a good thing!!!

Eileen said...

This was such a wonderful post, combining fascinating history with inspirational thought. I think that's something you do extremely well, my friend. You weave ideas, cultures, history, ritual, and individual experiences together in a way that makes your readers come away with a sense of wonder.
I'm glad that you and your very special honey experienced a sense of wonder yourselves on the beautiful islands of Hawaii. Here's to living our passion each and every day!

rosie said...

I am so very glad the two of you got away and enjoyed yourself. This is a very wise and informative post. I not only learned things I didn't know but got reminded about enjoying ourselves in the midst of the everyday dramas of life. Of course I will be praying for you and hubby. Thanks for this post

Karen O'Bannon said...

Very interesting post. Learned a lot about a deep tradition. I like the idea of hiding from the family. Couples need to get off alone and create their own memories.

Heidi Caswell said...

Wonderful post! Interesting the name honeymoon. So glad you were able work on that bucket list and do something great with your husband. Life is to be lived, not put on hold. Great example.