Are you hanging Mistletoe in your home this Christmas in the hope of some gratuitous smooching?
Just when the tradition of stealing a kiss under the mistletoe (Viscum Album) started seems to be a bit vague, the Romans with their Saturnalia festival brought fresh greens into their homes and ‘reveling’ under mistletoe was believed to induce health and fertility, but mistletoe was prohibited from decorating early Christian alters because of it’s relation to paganism and these early festivals. Both the Greeks and the Druids worshipped it’s power to protect and heal. The Druids also had a custom that two enemies who met beneath mistletoe would exchange a friendly greeting, lay down their arms and call a truce for the day.
In Norse mythology, Balder, the son of Frigga, is killed by an arrow (the only element that had not promised his mother to injure him) the tip of which was made of mistletoe. In the ‘happy ending’ version where Balder is resurrected, the white berries are the tears Frigga cried, and she kissed everyone who passed underneath it in gratitude for her sons salvation. The Vikings also believed it had the power to raise people from the dead.
Another legend that surround it is that the tree provided the wood for the cross that Christ was crucified on, so the tree was cursed and forced to live as a parasite, never allowed to touch the earth again (mistletoe is a parasitic plant and once it reaches a certain stage of maturity it taps into the host tree and absorbs water and nutrients, but it’s also a beneficial plant, providing food and nesting sites to many species of birds).
It’s the prudish Victorians who appear to have the credit for reintroducing mistletoe after the church ban, they’re also responsible for many of the classic traditions we associate with Christmas festivities – but thats another story.
So what’s Mistletoe Etiquette? Here are a few tips…
- Once the mistletoe is cut, it must not touch the ground again until the last of your Christmas Greens are removed.
- If you’re smooching underneath, be sure to remove one berry, when the berries are gone, you can no longer kiss underneath and have to wait until next year.
- It’s bad ‘kissing karma’ to not kiss when you’re underneath, but a peck on the cheek is suitable if the kissee is not.
- Breath mint.
So there you have it – my pithy guide to mistletoe. Hope you enjoyed the post and have some great kissing this year…
Thanks as always for reading EG!