How did a parasitic plant with poisonous, white berries become the sacred symbol to steal a kiss under during the Christmas and New Year season? When all the trees are laid bare by the freezing temperatures of winter, the mistletoe will bloom, and yield its berries while staying green all winter. It can be found hanging happily in any backyard tree. However, this parasitic plant steals water and nutrients from the host tree. If ingested, the mistletoe leaves or its berries can cause nausea, drowsiness, and even seizures.

The Celtic Druids during the 1st century A.D. considered the mistletoe sacred, and it became a symbol of fertility and life. Both the Greeks and Romans used mistletoe for medicinal purposes. Norse mythology has contributed to mistletoe folklore through a story involving Frigg, the goddess of love, and her son, Baldur who had been prophesied to die. Frigg went to all the animals and plants and made them promise not to kill her son. However, she neglected to tell mistletoe. Loki, a malevolent god, had an arrow made from the mistletoe plant which killed Baldur. However, the gods were able to revive and resurrect Baldur from the dead. Frigg was so delighted that she declared the mistletoe a symbol of love and vowed to give anyone a kiss that passed under it.

Actually, the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe started in England. The earliest mention of kissing under the mistletoe occurred in a musical dating back to 1784. Also, in 1843, illustrations in an early version of “A Christmas Carol” popularized this custom. Mistletoe has even been incorporated into some holiday songs. It is believed by some that if a person is standing under the mistletoe and refuses the kiss, then this will bring bad luck.

So, the next time you’re at a Christmas or New Year Eve’s party, be sure to accept a kiss on the cheek, of course, under the infamous mistletoe. Perhaps it will bring you good luck in the year 2021.


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