Kissing under the mistletoe is a Christmas tradition that‘s been around for as long as I can remember. The obligatory kiss could be the start of something positively wonderful. Of course, mistletoe had to be avoided at all costs if someone you found obnoxious or repugnant seemed determined to get you under that poisonous greenery.
The question is, how in the world did this tradition get started and, of all the botanical choices for such an otherwise romantic tradition, why would a poisonous, parasitic plant be chosen to kiss under? Well here is some history into the mistletoe mystery:
Way back in the misty beginnings of human culture, some groups of people believed mistletoe had magical properties that had to do with fertility, vivaciousness, some people thought it an aphrodisiac. I’m wondering why humans came up with love remedies with the most contrary or repulsive things like raw oysters and now mistletoe to get their game on. No one ever said humans were all that logical though so let me proceed.
The ancient Druids were among the first to attach a tradition with mistletoe. They believed mistletoe, especially the rare species that lived high in the branches of oak trees, must have sacred powers including healing powers, protection against nightmares, and could even assist in the prediction of the future. So, the Druids collected the toxic plant during the summer and winter solstices. They even decorated their houses with it at Christmastime even though they, of course, were not Christian.
Kissing under the mistletoe started in ancient Greece during the festival of Saturnalia and, later, it was used in marriage ceremonies since mistletoe was associated with fertility. The Romans would reconcile their differences with their enemies of war under mistletoe and would decorate their houses with it in midwinter to please their gods. I guess you can see where we’re going with the history of mistletoe toward our present day tradition.
Nordic Goddess of Love, Frigga
There is also a Nordic myth involving mistletoe that provides even more clues into the evolution of mistletoe as a kissing plant. Mistletoe was the sacred plant of the Nordic goddess of love, Frigga.
Loki, Nordic God of Mischief
Loki, the god of mischief (I’ve seen enough Thor movies to get what our friend Loki was capable of) shot Frigga’s son with a spear or an arrow which some say was made from mistletoe. Frigga was able to revive her son under the mistletoe tree and, afterward, decreed anyone who stands under the mistletoe tree deserves not only protection, but a kiss as well.
Victorian Couple Kissing Under the Mistletoe
And now we come to the final movement in the evolution if the mistletoe and the kiss with the Victorian era. I just have to say here, for a bunch of prissy and restricted social norms developed by the Victorians, they sure did come up with some fascinating ways around all that prim and proper social etiquette. Just sayin’…
Naturally, the Victorians in England considered kissing under the mistletoe serious business. If a man’s kiss was refused, the girl was doomed not to receive any marriage proposals for the next year and many people would even snub their noses at her and make comments abut her ending up an old maid. Isn’t it funny how men always come up with something that is advantageous only for them? Some gentlemen would ask a kiss for each berry they plucked, but I think this is just a way to take advantage of those straight-laced Victorian ladies.
Foxy Modern Mistletoe Kissing
Anyway, today we keep the whole kissing under the mistletoe a bit more lighthearted. The couple gets one kiss if they find themselves under the mistletoe whether by design or by accident.
A final note…keep in mind that the mistletoe berries are poisonous and not for human consumption unless you want stomach cramps and vomiting. I wonder if birds eat those berries. If they don’t, how do they know those berries are poisonous?
Diverse stories filled with heart