Mistletoe History: The Holiday Smooch
I’m pretty sure you won’t be surprised by this (at all), but the act of kissing under a sprig of mistletoe is my very favorite Christmas tradition. Yeah, that’s right. Because who doesn’t love a holiday smooch? Mistletoe is a reminder as to why Christmas is a holly, jolly time. So make out and make merry at the same time, because the holidays are all about love and happiness.
Kissing under the mistletoe was first found in Celtic, Norse and Greek wedding ceremonies because the plant was considered to have “supernatural powers” (which are no longer considered to be all that mysterious). The plant was meant to induce some serious sexy behavior, and has long been regarded as both an aphrodisiac and a fertility herb.
In Scandinavian folklore, mistletoe embodied the expression ‘kiss and make up.’ If enemies met beneath it in a forest, they would have to put down their weapons and call a truce until the following day. This piece of lore accompanies the Norse myth of Baldur to solidify mistletoe’s place in romantic history. Baldur’s mother, the goddess Frigga, made every living and breathing thing promise not to hurt her son. She forgot the mistletoe, and all hell broke loose. Loki, the god of mischief and trouble, tricked another god into killing Baldur with a spear made of mistletoe. His death is said to be what brought winter in the world. He was, of course, brought back to life, and his mother then made the mistletoe a sacred object that would bring love instead of destruction into the world. She also enforced a rule saying that any two people passing underneath the plant should kiss in order to celebrate her son’s life. Frigga took the ‘gift of life’ thing seriously.
If no one kissed you under the mistletoe in Victorian times, you weren’t a pariah: you were just doomed to be single for another year. Basically, any gal who couldn’t get a guy to kiss her could kiss her shot of getting married the following year goodbye. Conversely, a kiss underneath the ‘toe was the old-fashioned version of a promise ring: any couple who smooched themselves silly were considered a sure thing to tie the knot.
Another custom involves picking the white berries off said sprigs of mistletoe. Each time a guy stole a smooch, he’d have to pick another berry off. No more berries, no more kisses. End of story.
* In France, the kissing custom linked to mistletoe was reserved for New Year’s Day: “Au gui l’An neuf” (Mistletoe for the New Year) but can be taken advantage of at any time during the holiday season nowadays.
* Mistletoe is used to treat respiratory and circulatory problems.
* It’s the state ‘floral emblem’ of Oklahoma, because they didn’t have one up until 2004. Weak!
*It’s juices were used as an adhesive to capture small birds or animals. How’s that for a honey trap?
Question: What if you have no desire to kiss the person who happens to be accidentally standing under the mistletoe with you?
Deal with it. Or don’t. Just remember, if you refuse to kiss someone under our storied emblem of embracing, you might be making that person unhappy. And come on, it’s Christmas! Do the right thing. ‘Tis the season to be giving, after all.
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About the Author: Laura Schreffler is a former New York Daily News columnist who left the world of celebrity behind to focus on what makes her happiest — love and travel. She is the creator of LoveTrekker.com — a website devoted to these two passions that she fondly calls “looking for love in all the right places.” In her spare time she likes to play matchmaker for her friends, dream about her next vacation and gaze at photographs of Taylor Kitsch. For more advice on love, relationships, and happiness, check out http://lovetrekker.com & her book "Internet Dating 101". And follow her here at Happiness Series with her weekly blog about finding love.