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Mead Is The Delicious Dram Behind Your Honeymoon's Sweet Name

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HONEY MEAD
Alissa Sanderson via Getty Images
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August is Canada's most popular month to wed, and while new beginnings, romantic gestures and expressions of unconditional love may be top of mind for many couples, the prospect of planning a honeymoon to an exotic or romantic location is almost as exciting as the wedding itself. From romantic rides in Venice to wild times in Vegas, honeymooners have just about done it all. But why? Where did this tradition begin?

I recently had the opportunity to learn about the origin of the word "honeymoon" when I was in Ireland for a research and sightseeing trip. During one of our excursions we were lucky enough to stop at the Bunratty Castle, where we participated in a medieval-style dinner. The feast was complete with all the trappings of a medieval feast, including live singers and, as is the custom, no cutlery. That's right -- we ate with our bare hands!

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Bunratty Castle

Before the dinner began, we were each offered a glass of mead -- a sweet drink made of fermented fruit and honey -- as a welcome drink. While we enjoyed the delicious brew, it was explained to us that mead is called the "honeymoon drink" -- in Welsh, German, Scandinavian and Babylonian cultures, a one-month supply was traditionally given to a newly married couple. It was believed that if the couple drank the honey-based mead on a regular basis throughout the first moon of their marriage it would bring them luck and fertility. More specifically, drinking the mead allegedly ensured that the woman would become pregnant within their first year of marriage.

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Enjoying the festivities at Bunratty Castle

With this information fresh in my mind, I was inspired to dig deeper into the history of the honeymoon tradition and how it has evolved throughout the years.

While the tradition's exact origin is unknown, the custom of going on a honeymoon was popularized in Britain in the 1800s. Commonly referred to as "bridal tours," these trips were generally only affordable for members of the upper class, who used these trips to visit family and friends who were unable to attend their wedding. However, over the years as the gap between socioeconomic classes shrunk, these trips became more widespread, and today they are actually considered to be one of the primary drivers of mass tourism.

When one thinks of honeymoons one typically thinks of a tropical or exotic destination. For this reason, I was surprised to discover that Niagara Falls is widely recognized as the "honeymoon capital of the world." Around 50,000 newly wed couples visit Niagara Falls each year, many of whom leave their mark by signing their names in guest books kept by the Niagara Falls Tourism Office.

These records, now available from family history resource website, Ancestry, show that newlyweds have travelled to the falls from all around the world, including tropical spots such as Mexico, Hawaii and the Bahamas. Interestingly enough, these are the top three destinations Canadian say they've honeymooned.

With my 32nd wedding anniversary coming up in September, looking at these records has made me reflect on my own honeymoon. I had taken on most of the wedding planning, so my husband took charge of our honeymoon and chose to keep the location a surprise.

As we drove further into the countryside and eventually reached the fishing cottage he had rented, I quickly realized that this was not going to be the weekend in the city for which I had packed. While a quaint countryside weekend was definitely not what I expected, our memories of our first weekend as a married couple will never be forgotten.

To end on a sweet note, see below for a recipe that will teach you how to make your very own homemade mead!

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Homemade Mead

Ingredients:
  • 2 to 3 pounds of grade-A honey
  • 2 ½ litres of tap or bottled water
  • 1 and 1/3 grams of freeze-dried wine, champagne or dedicated mead yeast

Recommended Equipment:

  • Stainless Steel Stock Pot
  • Thermometer
  • Hydrometer
  • Plastic Fermenter
  • Glass Carboy
  • Fermentation Lock and Stopper
  • Racking Cane and Tubing
  • Sanitizer
Instructions:
  1. Put water into your stainless steel pot and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. After boiling for 10 minutes remove pot from heat and add yeast nutrient, yeast energizer, and honey.
  2. Stir the pot until the honey and water have mixed completely.
  3. Hold the mixture at that temperature (around 170 degrees) for 10 Minutes. Chill the mixture down to 80 degrees.
  4. Take a hydrometer reading. Pitch(add) your yeast into the must, stir vigorously for 5 minutes.
  5. Place the lid on your fermenter with the air lock attached. Fermentation should begin about 24 to 48 hours.
  6. 2 to 3 weeks later (or when fermentation is done) rack mead into a sanitized carboy. Let it sit another 3 to 4 weeks.
  7. Rack for the final time into another sanitized carboy and let it sit until the mead is clear (another 2 to 3 months).
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