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History of Mistletoe

Hey Sparkles! Happy Family Friday and Black Friday. Now that Thanksgiving is over, people start to think about Christmas. Today I am going to talk about the history of mistletoe.

When two people are standing under a mistletoe, the tradition is to kiss each other. But why do we do this silly thing year after year without fail?

Ancient mistletoe traditions

The tradition of using mistletoe at holiday times dates back to the Celtic Druids. However, they did not kiss under it, but instead hung it around their houses, believing that mistletoe had magic powers to heal illnesses and prevent nightmares. They also believed that it could predict the future.

Kissing under the mistletoe did not start until the time of the ancient Greeks. They used it in the festival of Saturnalia and wedding ceremonies because the plant was associated with fertility. During the Roman era, enemies would make peace under the mistletoe. They also decorated with the plant to please their gods.

There is also a Nordic myth concerning mistletoe, and it goes like this: The plant was sacred to Frigga, the goddess of love, but Loki, commonly known as the god of mischief, shot Frigga’s son with a spear or, in some tellings, 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. If a girl refused a kiss, she shouldn’t expect any marriage proposals for at least the next year, and many people would snub their noses at her, remarking that she would most likely end up an old maid.

Modern times

Today, we take a much more lighthearted approach to the tradition. Although many couples simply just kiss when caught standing under it, there is actually a proper etiquette dating back to ancient times about kissing under the mistletoe. Linda Allen writes in Decking the Halls: The Folklore and Traditions of Christmas Plants that the gentleman should pluck one white berry while kissing the lady on the cheek. One kiss is allowed for each berry.

It should be mentioned, however, that the plant contains toxic amines, and eating its berries can cause vomiting and stomach pain. In the past, mistletoe had been thought to be a cure for epilepsy and other ailments but was proved false. In fact, mistletoe is probably more harmful than helpful: deaths have even been reported from drinking too much tea made from its berries.

So let’s just stick to kissing under it.

Well, that’s all I have for today, Sparkles. Tell me what you think about this tradition. Thanks for reading, and Sparkles away!

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