Honeymoon, a term proverbially applied to such as be new married, which will not fall out at the first, but the one loveth the other at the beginning exceedingly, the likelihood of their exceeding love appearing to assuage, the which time the vulgar people call the honey moon….

Still, the honeymoon today is considered a period of sweetness, not one that presages an inevitable decline; the honeymoon defines a period mapped not among the stars but in one’s heart, especially if one’s heart is in Niagara Falls.

Summer is winding down into fall, and soon the harvest moon will be appearing on the horizon. The harvest moon and hunter’s moon are the two most stable names that appear on the list of moon names, those fanciful — "Worm moon"! "Sturgeon moon"! — descriptions of the calendar that farmers’ almanacs love to print. The "blue moon" is missing from this list, as it never defined a specific period on the calendar. Blue moons are the second full moon in a month. The term originally meant an impossibility, Elizabethans not having seen the aftermath of the Krakatoa eruption or other events that introduce huge amounts of particulates into the air. Also missing from the list of moon names is the honeymoon. There are many folk etymologies explaining why a honeymoon is called a honeymoon, but the apparent true origin of the term is rather more cynical than one might have expected from a nice sixteenth-century lexicographer like Richard Huloet:

Honeymoon, a term proverbially applied to such as be new married, which will not fall out at the first, but the one loveth the other at the beginning exceedingly, the likelihood of their exceeding love appearing to assuage, the which time the vulgar people call the honey moon….

Still, the honeymoon today is considered a period of sweetness, not one that presages an inevitable decline; the honeymoon defines a period mapped not among the stars but in one’s heart, especially if one’s heart is in Niagara Falls. The spectacular scenery at Niagara Falls, particularly Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the border, has been attracting honeymooners since the nineteenth century. Marilyn Monroe did it in Niagara, and fifty thousand or so honeymooners still visit every year. Fifty thousand people isn’t a Las Vegas-sized tourist industry, and with the industrial behemoths and giant chemical companies that once made use of the Falls for power largely gone from upstate New York (along with their employment base), Niagara Falls is looking to bring in more tourists yet. Buffalo is cornering the market on hip artists and restaurants among decaying Rust Belt towns in upstate New York, and lunatic barrel riders aren’t a growth market, so the city has turned to the last great hope of all Chambers of Commerce. Plans are afoot to build casinos, bringing in gambling-starved Ottawans less interested in natural splendors than in slots. One’s honeymoon hopefully is the start of a lifetime of bliss; one’s visit to the blackjack table is sure not to be. But Niagara Falls has been profiting from unrealistic expectations for some time; one scholarly treatise on Niagara and honeymooning takes its title from a paraphrased Oscar Wilde quip about brides’ reactions to arriving at the Falls after their weddings. The book is called The Second Greatest Disappointment.