Handshaking: a short story



Handshake is a ritual we take for granted, when we say hello, when we say goodbye, as a gesture of good will, as a show of respect or when close to a deal… and it's something we've all of a sudden had to learn not to do during the Covid-19. But it seems that in the past, it was more of a sign of... suspicion. It is believed that when someone stretched out his right hand, he wanted to show that he was not holding a weapon. The Romans grabbed the other's forearm to check that he did not have a hidden knife in his sleeve. Also, archaeological findings and ancient texts show that the handshake was common in ancient Greece. Homer made many references to the handshake as a show of confidence between men. Handshaking was also depicted in art, murals and statues, as well as on tombstones, where the deceased is depicted sitting among his loved ones, with whom he shakes hands.


In the medieval Europe, knights shook hands to see if hidden weapons would fall. In the 17th century, it is believed that the Quakers, a Christian denomination in England adopted the handshake as a greeting. By 1800, textbooks for proper handshaking had been already published.

Researchers now believe that the handshake is essentially a chemical signal between the two interlocutors, as hands have all the neurological circuitry and the emotional parts that we need to make good contact with our fellow humans and a proper handshake can release chemicals in the brain including the bonding hormone oxytocin, which can promote harmony and friendship. And throughout human history, the handshake has been an expression of peace and forgiveness. Alas, it is also, as we've learned, an excellent delivery vehicle for germs and has therefore been abruptly taken from us.

Looking forward to the day when we can once again join hands with our fellow man and woman!

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