Can you give air-kisses to icons in the Eastern Orthodox church instead of physical kisses? I was reading this website, which teaches church etiquette to church-going Christians. The website seems to imply that the kisses are physical kisses, because the writer of the article is concerned with lipstick on the icons. That said, is it okay to give air-kisses? Are chapsticks allowed? What about the etiquette of the non-Christian visitor? Should he kiss the icon too to pay respect to the icon, or is the behavior exclusively for observant Orthodox Christians?

  • In my church, we mostly do physical kisses, but people can choose to give air kisses in some cases, for example if they are sick, or have a cold sore, or are wearing chapstick.
    – Bobo
    May 29, 2014 at 0:47

1 Answer 1


Air kisses are totally fine. The purpose of the kiss is to show reverence to that which the icon portrays, whether it is of Christ, the Theotokos or a Saint. Depending on the ethnicity of the Church you attend, you may see people prostrate (bow fully and touch their hand to the floor), or kneel down and fully touch their head to the floor. Some do this multiple times.

It is important to remember the purpose of this is to give honor to the person portrayed in the icon, and is not, contrary to Protestant thought, to worship the person of the icon as a god.

Anyone may give reverence to an icon, whether through a bow, a kiss, or a nod; in fact there is nothing that a non-Orthodox can't do which an Orthodox can do in the church, except for receiving the mysteries of communion or the other sacraments (confession, marriage, etc.).

In regards to doing a physical kiss with lipstick or chapstick; I'm not positive but will get back to you on that. Here is my deduction for the moment-- if an icon drops to the ground, the Orthodox are instructed to burn it and not throw it away (although most just pick it up, give it a kiss and put it back). It would be pretty awkward to knock an icon off its stand onto the ground, as it would be considered disrespectful to whom the icon portrays. Because of this, I assume that it wouldn't be good to leave lipstick or chap-stick on the icon, but I could be wrong.

  • Are you an Orthodox Christian, or are you merely representing Orthodox Christianity? If the latter, then can you give some references to support your answer? That would be very helpful. If you are an Orthodox Christian, then it would still be useful to share some references.
    – Double U
    Mar 28, 2014 at 2:33
  • @Anonymous I am Orthodox but will try to find some sources regardless. Are you referring to the air vs real kiss or the ethnic question also? Mar 28, 2014 at 3:32
  • We have some ladies who just Windex the icons framed in glass after the service to clean off the lipstick. Most folks do actually kiss them, but some also air-kiss, too. No one minds which is done in most cases, and I've done both.
    – Dan
    Mar 28, 2014 at 21:18
  • @Daи The icons in my Church are not behind any glass, so I'll ask someone what is done regarding lipstick (I hope it doesn't involve Windex!) Mar 28, 2014 at 23:07
  • @Anonymous I would be surprised if any references existed for this. It concerns practice that likely is not addressed in any official statements.
    – Dan
    Mar 29, 2014 at 15:05

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