December 15, 2014

•GUEST POST• Roxy Taylor on Unwrapping the Christmas History of Mistletoe





You don’t have to be a hardcore Christmas fanatic to know about the Christmas tradition of kissing underneath the mistletoe. So where does the tradition come from and how different is it today from its original roots? Before you pucker up under the mistletoe at the next Christmas party, learn the reason why.

Mythic Mistletoe

Norse mythology’s hammer-wielding god of thunder Thor had a grandson named Baldur who was firmly convinced that every animal and plant was out to kill him. To assuage the god’s fear, his mother and wife set out to ask all of the plants and animals to promise not to hurt Baldur--all except for mistletoe. When Baldur finally felt relief from his fear, he stepped outside only to receive an arrow made from mistletoe to the chest, killing him.

Since then, it’s become a tradition to hang mistletoe over the door as a reminder to never forget what happened to Baldur and we kiss underneath the plant as a way to remember what Baldur’s wife and mother forgot. For other theories behind mistletoe, check out Ghurka’s blog article.

Druids & Mistletoe

Another story about the tradition of mistletoe stems from druids who used to hang mistletoe over the door because they thought that it had magical properties and could bring luck. There are also some who say that mistletoe brings fertility. The most modern interpretation of the beloved plant is that each time a guy kisses a girl under the mistletoe he has to pluck a berry from the bush. Once all of the berries have been removed from the bush, the guy can no longer steal a kiss.

The Truth Is in the Trees

The truth about mistletoe is that it evolved from sandalwood and grew on the branches of trees rather than the roots in order to better siphon the necessary nutrients, sugar, and water. Another advantage of growing on branches is that the towering trees acted as an elevator for mistletoe, allowing it to gain altitude and sunlight with a minimum of effort.

Another advantage of mistletoe being able to grow in tree branches is that it was better able to colonize thanks to the berries that it grew, berries that birds ate, digested, and excreted onto branches, making it possible for the mistletoe seeds to germinate. When we kiss under the mistletoe, it symbolizes the bird kissing the seeds of the plant and the kiss of the seed as it lands on a branch. While not as exciting as the legend of Baldur or the magical properties associated with the plant, this version is nonetheless important to learning more about the tradition of mistletoe.

The next time you’re at a Christmas party and find yourself under a sprig of mistletoe, you’ll better understand the history of the plant and why you pucker up for the next guy or girl who passes your way.   

This is a sponsored post.  Original mistletoe ball image via southernliving.com