Mistletoes are flowering plants that obtain all or most of their nutrition by living on and parasitizing other flowering plants. They grow on the branches of trees and form dangling bushes two to five feet in diameter and the berries are poisonous.
Most of us have dawdled a bit under a hanging sprig of mistletoe during the Christmas season once or twice in our lives waiting on that special someone to meet us there. But, how did this tradition begin?
One folklore has it that kissing underneath the mistletoe dates back to Norse mythology. Baldur, the Scandinavian God of Peace, was shot by a spear of mistletoe from Loki, God of Evil. That wasn’t the end of Baldur, however, because his mother, Frigga (Goddess of Love), brought him back to life with her tears and those tears turned the mistletoe berries from red to white.
In Frigga’s happiness, she kissed all who passed beneath the tree on which it grew. And that story ends with a decree that all who stand under the mistletoe will have no harm befall them, only a kiss.
The Scandinavians considered the mistletoe to be a sacred plant and thought it to have miraculous properties, which could ensure fertility, protect against witchcraft, cure illnesses, and serve as an antidote against poisons.
Mistletoe was also thought of as a symbol of peace; enemies who met under the plant in the forest had to observe a truce for a day. Thus came the custom of exchanging kisses under it as a sign of friendship and goodwill.
Exchanging kisses under the mistletoe was also a tradition of Greek festivals and marital ceremonies. They believed that if a couple kissed while underneath, they were to be engaged and would also have a long and happy life together.
There are also those who say that the English were correct. A man is to pluck a berry when he kisses a woman under the mistletoe and when the last berry is gone, there should be no more kissing. However, these days, mistletoe is sold without its toxic berries, so that custom must be overlooked.
Only one thing is for sure … whatever legend or folklore you choose to accept, it is the overall belief that catching that certain special someone underneath the mistletoe is an enjoyable Christmas tradition!
Article by Melissa Parker
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