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Cigars and The History of Bachelor Parties

Aug 26, 2008
As with most marriage customs, it's hard to pin down exactly when and how the bachelor party developed. Some writers compare them to Viking funerals - just as those ancient warriors robustly celebrated the life of a fallen comrade, sending him off to Valhalla with great gusto, an engaged man's single friends arrange a lusty sendoff for that man's adolescence, his years as a carefree bachelor.

According to writer Erin Monaghan, the tradition dates back to the ancient Spartans - the same macho warriors we all saw bravely defending Greece from Persia in the movie 300. It's easy enough to imagine such a male-oriented tradition arising in the guys-only, locker-room world of the militaristic Spartans.

But other writers suggest that the tradition has much more recent, and local, origins. Though ancient Spartans did indeed like to raise a glass to their newly-married friends, the modern bachelor party may have waited until modern times to develop. Indeed, in a 2004 Oakland Tribune story by Carl Hartman, wedding-history expert Alden O'Brien is described as attributing the bachelor party to the customs of late-Victorian times: "She thinks the bachelor party began in the late 1800s, when starchy bridegrooms wanted a farewell night with friends whom they preferred not to introduce to their brides. The groom's more presentable associates would receive formal "at home" cards from the new household." Like many new traditions, this one would have looked for ancient parallels with which to justify itself.

A quote from poet Percy Shelley testifies to the spirit of a time period when the newly-married often enough did abandon their less-respectable comrades: "When a man marries, dies, or turns Hindu, his best friends hear no more of him," Shelley lamented in a letter. The literature of the period also attests to this phenomenon. Marriage is, for example, enough to drive a wedge even between Sherlock Holmes and his famously devoted friend John Watson, after the latter meets and marries Mary Morstan in the second Holmes story, The Sign of Four. Watson tells us as much, at the beginning of the very next Holmes story, "A Scandal in Bohemia":

"I had seen little of Holmes lately. My marriage had drifted us away from each other. My own complete happiness, and the home-centered interests which rise up around the man who first finds himself master of his own establishment, were sufficient to absorb all my attention, while Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature - I knew little of my former friend and companion."

In a society where marriage could interfere with such friendships, it's easy to imagine the modern bachelor party springing up in all its adventurousness.

In any case, like any custom, this one has continued to change throughout the decades. Once upon a time, bachelor parties were expected to be lusty Bacchanalias, complete with strippers, drinking, and hazing. Today's bachelor parties are more likely to be toned-down but fun affairs, with drinking moderated and honor to one's future bride a priority. Today, as often as not, the fiance' and her friends may show up, and the party becomes a celebration of marriage, rather than a lament for lost bachelorhood.

But however you choose to celebrate, one custom is unlikely to go away, and that's the ritual smoking of cigars. A Google search for "bachelor party customs" will turn up ample mentions of cigar-smoking. As for so many other milestones in life, cigar smoking seems - even to nonsmokers - like an exceptionally appropriate way to slow down and savor the moment.

For those of you planning a bachelor party, here are some cigar basics:

1) Choose quality. (After all, it's not every day that your best friend gets married!) Avoid machine-rolled cigars, which use scraps and bits of tobacco rather than entire leaves selected by connoisseurs. Buy hand-rolled, long-filler cigars from a quality cigar outlet or online store.

2) Generally, the darker the outer wrapper, the sweeter the taste; tan- or lighter-colored cigars tend to be drier. Choose according to taste.

3) How to smoke: Cut off the cap of the cigar, then, using a wooden match or a butane lighter or other full flame (not a paper match), turn the end of the cigar in the flame a full 360 degrees until every part of it is lit. Don't inhale - this isn't a cigarette! Pull the smoke into your mouth and taste it thoroughly without allowing it into your lungs. Remember, it's about the taste.
About the Author
CigarFox provides you the opportunity to build your own sampler of the finest cigars that include cigar brands like Montecristo, Romeo & Julieta, H Upmann, Macanudo, Cohiba, Gurkha and many more. Choose from more than 1000 different brands! Other cigar products include cigar humidors, cigar boxes, and cigar accessories like Zippo Lighters.
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