It is hanging over the doorway and your special someone is standing under it. Therefore, you pucker up and give them a wet one. How did this tradition start? Why do we even hang mistletoe? Does this piece of greenery hold mystical powers?
Since ancient times, the mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious and sacred plants of European folklore. Arguments against the use of mistletoe in Christmas décor stems from the plants significance in pagan traditions and its association with magical powers. Mistletoe has been associated to Celtic and pagan rituals as well as in Norse mythology. People in ancient times thought of it as a sacred plant that held special powers.
The ancient Druids consider the plant to have miraculous powers, which could cure illness, serve as an antidote against poisons, ensure fertility and protect a person against witchcraft. It was also believed that mistletoe was an aphrodisiac or a sexual symbol.
In some cultures, the mistletoe was symbolic of peace, love and goodwill. The modern day tradition of kissing under the mistletoe stems from Norse mythology. A Norse goddess declared mistletoe as a sacred plant to symbolize love rather than death that, as the myth goes, it previously stood for. Being a symbol of love, kissing under the mistletoe naturally became a tradition.
It also evolved from several different cultures. In Greece exchanging kisses under the mistletoe was a tradition at festivals and marital ceremonies. If a couple in love exchanges a kiss under the mistletoe, it was interpreted as a promise to marry. As well as a prediction of happiness and long life.
The Anglo-Saxons associated the powers of the plant to the legend of Freya, the goddess of love, beauty and fertility. The legend goes like this, a man had to kiss a young girl who, without realizing it, found herself under the mistletoe hanging from the ceiling. Guys would pick a berry as they kissed the girls and when the last berry was gone, the kissing stopped.
In France, the custom linked to the mistletoe was reserved for New Years Day: “Au gui l’An neuf”- Mistletoe for the New Year. Today in the United States, kisses can be exchanged under the mistletoe anytime during the holiday.
Today’s custom of using mistletoe to decorate home during Christmas came from European beliefs and traditions. In Europe, branches of mistletoe were hung from the ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In some countries, it was hung over the doorway entering a house to prevent witches from entering.
There are several species of mistletoe that grows in various parts of the world. Most mistletoe plants are poisonous if eaten and should be kept out of the reach of small children. Mistletoe has been known to be used in some alternative treatments for cancer.
These days, you buy mistletoe in little plastic bags around Christmas time(or you can pick it out of the tree). You hang it in a doorway in your home. If you see someone standing under the mistletoe, you are supposed to kiss him or her. If you want to be proper, the man is supposed to pick one of the berries off the mistletoe after the kiss. It’s a fun Christmas tradition!