“To Kiss under the mistletoe” is one of the many holiday traditions followed during Christmas time.
The romantic act that brings together so many couples, be it in real life or Hallmark Christmas movies is rooted in ancient mythology. The mistletoe plant, itself holds a long history of cultural significance.
Irrespective of whether people understand the tradition, most are quite keen to follow along, for good measure!
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Each home carries countless holiday traditions when the month of December rolls around, some which pre-date all of us.
The holiday tradition of lighting a Christmas tree, has been around since the 16th century,Germany. The tradition of hanging the Christmas stocking by the fireplace and placing an orange in the heel of the stocking can be credited back to the days of St.Nicholas.
Would you be surprised to know the idea of kissing under the mistletoe started before any of the others above?
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What is the significance of kissing under the mistletoe?
The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe started in ancient Greece, during the festival of Saturnalia and later in marriage ceremonies, because of the plant’s association with fertility.
During the Roman era, enemies at war would reconcile their differences under the mistletoe, which to them represented peace.
What does a Mistletoe look like?
In the forest, mistletoe is a bit of a scourge, a parasitic plant that latches on to trees and feeds off of them.
But at Christmas, it becomes a symbol of romance.
What is the difference between holly and mistletoe?
Holly is a shrub or tree with dark green color spiny leaves. Moreover, it produces red colored berries.
In contrast, mistletoe is a parasitic plant grown in the crowns of oaks, apple trees, and other trees. It contains olive-green color leaves and produces white color berries.
Both the holly and mistletoe, form part of the holiday celebrations.
What is the myth of mistletoe?
The origins of kissing under the mistletoe, a plant that often bears white berries, are often traced to a tale in Norse mythology about the god Baldur. We have the goddess Frigga to thank for, mistletoe taking on even more of an amorous association.
As the Nordic myth goes, Odin, the god of wisdom, and his wife Frigga had a son named Baldur who was prophesied to be killed. Frigga met with all living things (plants and animals) urging them not to harm her son.
She forgot to reach out to the unassuming and non-threatening mistletoe, which Loki, the god of mischief, used to forge the spear that brought down Baldur.
Frigga revived her son under the mistletoe tree and decreed that, from that day forward that the plant would never be used as a weapon again. It would be a symbol of love instead, and she vowed to bestow a kiss on anyone who walked underneath it and protection from death.
During the same period, people would stand under mistletoe, trying to reconcile after an argument.It was supposed to have mystical powers of healing and ward off evil.
What does mistletoe symbolize?
Mistletoe is one of the four plants traditionally adopted to celebrate Christmas. It’s evergreen leaves symbolize ‘life that does not die’. Mistletoes is associated with fertility, long life, good luck, health and a good harvest in the months to come.
It is supposed to possess mystical powers which bring good luck to the household and wards off evil spirits.
It was used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology.
What is the significance of mistletoe at Christmas?
Now, if are you wondering when the tradition of hanging mistletoe in the house during Christmas, came into play?
Dickens, of course!
It’s not entirely clear how or when mistletoe first got pulled into all of the Christmas festivities, but its earliest mention seems to come from the work of Charles Dickens in his novel, The Pickwick Papers.
Washington Irving’s Christmas Eve carried the tradition of Victorian England, a bit further.
People of the time decorated their homes with kissing balls/boughs, which were made from trimmed evergreen, ribbon, ornaments, and mistletoe.
The rule was that if a young woman was caught standing under one of these balls, she couldn’t refuse a kiss or else she wouldn’t get married the following year.
It was also customary that a berry was plucked from the ball with each kiss that occurred underneath it.
What are you supposed to do when you find yourself under the mistletoe?
Mistletoe traditions have certainly evolved over time.
In ancient times, visitors would kiss the hand of a host under the mistletoe when they arrived. Since then, the tradition has grown a bit more personal.
Today, any couple caught standing underneath the mistletoe should prepare to pucker up!
What are the rules of mistletoe?
Under a sprig of mistletoe, a man must kiss the nearest lady only on the cheek.
Once the kissing is done, a berry must be removed from the mistletoe. When all of the berries are gone, the mistletoe has lost its kiss-compelling powers!
What should you remove after kissing under the mistletoe?
After every kiss, a berry should be removed from the bush and once all of the berries have been taken the kissing must cease!
Some cultures see a kiss under the mistletoe as a promise to marry.
What happens if you don’t kiss under the mistletoe?
According to tradition its bad luck to refuse a kiss beneath the mistletoe.
The correct mistletoe etiquette is for the man to remove one berry when he kisses a woman. When all the berries are gone, there’s no more kissing permitted underneath that plant.
Did you know?
Did you know that the mistletoe’s magical hold over holiday lovers goes back way before the first office Christmas party ? Here are some known facts about the holiday tradition:
- The tradition of mistletoe at Christmas started with the belief that the plant possesses mystical powers which bring good luck to the household and wards off evil spirits. It was also used as a sign of love and friendship.
- The Celtic Druids were among the first people known to ascribe a tradition to mistletoe using it in ceremonies at least a few thousand years ago, but they didn’t kiss under it. They believed that mistletoe, had sacred powers to heal illnesses, protect against nightmares, and even predict the future. An elixir with mistletoe to cure infertility and the effects of poison was popular among them.. They were the first to use mistletoe to decorate houses around Christmastime, although their tradition had nothing to do with the Christian holiday.
- The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe started in ancient Greece, during the festival of Saturnalia.Later it was introduced in marriage ceremonies, because of the plant’s association with fertility.
- During the Roman era, enemies at war would reconcile their differences under the mistletoe, which to them represented peace.
- A Nordic myth concerning mistletoe, states that the plant was sacred to Frigga, the goddess of love, but Loki, commonly known as the god of mischief, shot Frigga’s son with an arrow carved from mistletoe. Frigga revived her son under the mistletoe tree and decreed that anyone who stands under the mistletoe tree deserves not only protection from death, but also a kiss.
- In Victorian England, kissing under the mistletoe was serious business where a girl was not allowed to refuse a kiss, for fear of not getting a marriage proposal.
- In recent times we have a much more lighthearted approach to kissing under the mistletoe.The gentleman should pluck one white berry while kissing the lady on the cheek. One kiss is allowed for each berry.
Links to my blogposts on holiday traditions
- Dear Santa….
- How and when did Christmas Tree tradition start?
- Why is Gingerbread a Christmas Tradition?
- Why do we put Oranges in Christmas Stockings?
- Why do people kiss under the mistletoe?
- Get your kitchen holiday ready!
- Unleash the holiday cheer!
- Holiday Gift Ideas for the Bakers in your Life
- Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
The Bottom Line
If you are some one who follows all the traditions of the holiday season, or just a select few (Ahem!) and the mistletoe kiss seems to be one of them, make sure your bough of mistletoe this year, has plenty of berries on it!