Macron rekindles France’s cheeky embrace – .

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Macron rekindles France’s cheeky embrace – .


PARIS – The double-cheeked embrace that was a customary greeting in France before the coronavirus pandemic saw it largely abandoned as a potential kiss of death is back with a presidential seal of approval.

French President Emmanuel Macron made the return of “the kiss” almost official on Friday by warmly kissing two World War II veterans at an awards ceremony.

The French leader was wearing a face mask. The veterans – Léon Gautier, 98, and René Crignola, 99 – did not. But the two seemed comfortable and reciprocated, as Macron reached out and set his cheeks against theirs.

Macron is vaccinated against the coronavirus and also suffered a moderate COVID-19 crisis in December.

The gesture put Macron’s seal of approval on what is yet another slow, hesitant and not always welcome return of hugs. They have become frowned upon as COVID-19 infections ravaged France, which has 110,000 deaths from the disease.

With 60 percent of French adults having already had at least one vaccine, kissing family and friends again has been one of the joys of vaccination for those who quickly pick up the habit.

But others are clinging to the hope that its demise at the height of the pandemic could still become permanent, especially in the workplace.

Even before the pandemic, “the kiss” was a source of division. Having to do kissing rounds with co-workers was seen as an awkward and tedious chore by some, an enjoyable and relationship-affirming exercise by others.

Macron’s hugs for veterans by awarding them the Legion of Honor, the country’s highest honor, marked a new step towards France becoming itself again.

Face masks were also removed this week – dress is no longer required outside under most circumstances. And a nighttime curfew ends on Sunday.

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