Mistletoe history probably isn't at the top of your mind during the holidays, but it's good to know. You'll gain some points with your sweetheart if you can add a bit of trivia after you kiss under the holiday mistletoe.
Mistletoe the Plant
There are two types of mistletoe: the type you see in Christmas mistletoe ornaments, which is native to North America, and Viscum album, which is native to Europe. Mistletoe has always been a magical and mysterious plant that is sacred in European folklore. It is said that the mistletoe gives life and fertility and protects against poison.
Mistletoe for the Holidays
Mistletoe was often gathered by the Celtic Druids. It was always gathered on the sixth night of the moon during the mid-summer and winter solstices to use in their ceremonies. The custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses during the Christmas season came from the old Celtic Druid tradition.
Greeks also thought that mistletoe had mystical powers, and mistletoe became associated with many folklore customs. Branches of mistletoe were often hung from the ceilings of houses to ward off evil spirits. Mistletoe branches were also placed over house and stable doors in Europe to prevent witches from entering. When people immigrated and settled in America, these traditions were brought with them.
Stealing a Kiss
The ritual of kissing under the mistletoe was first associated with Saturnalia, a Greek festival. It was also later used for primitive marriage rites. In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace. Enemies could stand under the mistletoe to declare a truce. This was transferred to "warring" spouses, who could kiss and make up while standing under the mistletoe.
In eighteenth-century England, it became irresistible to kiss a woman standing under mistletoe. The kiss could have meant a long-lasting relationship or a long-lasting friendship and goodwill. If the woman remained unkissed, she would never marry. To this day, people stand under the mistletoe to kiss, whether to ward off evil spirits or witches, or to declare a truth. Some people do it just to keep a tradition. Practically, it doesn't matter which history you believe; it's always fun to kiss under the mistletoe.
Large infestations of mistletoe are capable of killing trees. Find out what to do if your trees get infected.
Is mistletoe poisonous? Learn about how to take precautions if you'll hang it in a home with children or pets.