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The History of Mistletoe

December 07, 2017

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We all know the tradition of smooching under the mistletoe - but why do we do it? Uncover the mistletoe mystery!

What is Mistletoe?

The scientific plant name for mistletoe is 'Viscum Album' and get this, it's a plant that loves to get up close and personal - because it's a parasitic! That means it grows on or around different plants. It's an evergreen with light yellow flowers and white berries.

Kissing under the mistletoe is older than Christmas!Kissing under the mistletoe is older than Christmas!

Mystical, Mysterious Mistletoe

Before it became a sneaky way of getting people to kiss at holiday parties, mistletoe was considered a mystically powerful plant! This seemingly silly tradition goes all the way back to the Druids, 200 years before Christ (and of course, Christmas.) Mistletoe was considered a sacred plant by Ancient Druid priests, and was used during Winter celebrations. The plant was revered because it stayed green all year long.

Mistletoe was revered for it's magical and healing powers by Ancient culturesMistletoe was revered for it's magical and healing powers by Ancient cultures

The Druids weren't the only ones that believed mistletoe was powerful, the Ancient Celtics believed it had healing powers and could cure poison and ward off evil spirits. The Ancient Romans believed mistletoe was a sign of peace and friendship - in fact legend had it that enemies who met under mistletoe would put their weapons down and embrace!

The Norse Legend

So where does the kissing come in? Some believe that it starts with Norse mythology. The Norse goddess of love and wife of Odin, Frigg. When her son Baldur has a dream of his death she makes all living things promise to do no harm to her son - but forgets to make young mistletoe promsie as well, and Baldur is killed by an enemy who uses an arrow made of mistletoe.

Frigg, the Norse Goddess of Love spinning the cloudsFrigg, the Norse Goddess of Love spinning the cloudsCourtesy of norse-mythology.org

To help her grief she declares mistletoe to be a sign of love so it can do no more harm, and as her tears fall on her son they turn into the small white berries on mistletoe, and Baldur is miraculously revived. Frigg vows then that anyone to stand under mistletoe shall receive a token of love - a kiss!

The Kissing Bough

Fast forward to Victorian England, mistletoe was the "magical" ingredient in what was known as 'The Kissing Bough." A round frame with ribbons, plants and a nativity scene in the middle, this holiday decoration was hung from the ceiling. Guests at holiday parties, weddings and all kinds of festivities played kissing games underneath the decoration, which was meant to symbolize luck and friendship.

Kissing under the mistletoe has a long history! But just remember - if someone you don't like tries to kiss you, just duck!

Have Your Say

Have you ever kissed anyone beneath mistletoe? Do you think this custom is totally cute or kind of gross? Let us know in the comments section below!