Does your family hang mistletoe as part of their Christmas decorations? There is a tradition that involves kissing underneath the mistletoe. Have you ever wondered why people do this? The history using mistletoe in relation to fertility or kissing goes back farther than you might realize.
There are 1,300 mistletoe species worldwide. Mistletoe is a parasite plant. Every species of mistletoe grows as a parasite on the branches of trees and shrubs. When a mistletoe seed lands on a suitable host, it send out roots that penetrate the tree and draw on its nutrients and water. Trees infested with mistletoe die early because of the parasitic growth.
In the first century A.D., Celtic Druids viewed mistletoe as a sacred symbol of vivacity. This was likely because the plant could blossom and stay green even in the frozen winter. Druids administered mistletoe to both humans and animals for the purpose of restoring fertility.
The word “mistletoe” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words, “mistrel” (dung) and “tan” (twig). The word “mistletan” is the Old English version of mistletoe. The plant has white berries that the Anglo-Saxons obviously noticed resembled bird droppings on a twig.
Norse mythology mentions mistletoe. Prophecy foretold that Odin’s most beloved son, Baldur, was going to die. Frigg (Baldur’s mother) went to all her creations and secured an oath that they would not harm Baldur. She forgot to get that oath from mistletoe. Loki figure it out and killed Baldur with an arrow made from mistletoe. The gods were able to resurrect Baldur. Frigg, delighted by the resurrection, declared mistletoe a symbol of love and promised to plant a kiss on all who passed beneath it.
Babylonion women who wanted to find a mate would stand outside of a temple that belonged to the goddess of love. Mistletoe hung in the entryway. When a suitor arrived, the woman was supposed to bond with him.
In the middle ages, maidens placed sprigs of mistletoe under their pillow at night so they would dream of the man that they would marry.
Mistletoe was hung at balls in 18th century Britain. A couple could stand underneath the mistletoe and kiss, and then remove one of the mistletoe’s berries. If a couple that was in love kissed under the mistletoe, it was a promise to marry. After the plant ran out of berries, it was considered bad luck to kiss under the mistletoe.
A young woman at a ball could stand alone under the mistletoe. Doing so meant she could not refuse any man who came to kiss her. The kiss could mean romance, friendship, or good will. If no one came to kiss her, it meant she would not be married in the coming year.
Related Articles at FamilyTree.com:< Return To Blog