Christmas Traditions: The story of Mistletoe

Some historians believe the connection between mistletoe and a kiss comes from ancient Norse mythology. According to happier versions of the legend according to, Baldur was killed by an enemy’s arrow made of mistletoe. His mother, the goddess Frigg, wept tears onto the arrow. Her tears turned into white berries that she placed onto Baldur’s wound, bringing him back to life. Overjoyed, Frigg blessed the plant and mistletoe promised a kiss to all who passed beneath it.

However, and according to, the custom of kissing under Mistletoe comes from England. The earliest recorded date mentioning kissing under the mistletoe is in 1784 in a musical. There was kissing under the mistletoe in the illustrations in the first book version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ published in 1843, and this might have helped to popularize kissing under the mistletoe. The original custom was that a berry was picked from the sprig of Mistletoe before the person could be kissed and when all the berries had gone, there could be no more kissing!The name mistletoe comes from two Anglo Saxon words ‘Mistel’ (which means dung) and ‘tan’ (which means) twig or stick! So you could translate Mistletoe as ‘poo on a stick’!!! Not exactly romantic is it! Mistletoe was also hung on the old English decoration the Kissing Bough.

So what, exactly, is mistletoe? The far-from-romantic answer from is that it’s a parasitic plant, which means it depends on another plant for survival. Mistletoe can only grow if its seeds are carried to a “host” tree by birds that have eaten mistletoe berries. Typically, a bird will squeeze a berry in its beak, squishing out a sticky, coated seed.The bird eats the fruit and cleans the sticky coating, called “viscon” off its beak by wiping it against a nearby branch. As the vision hardens, the seed becomes firmly attached to the host tree.

Mistletoe kissing is not mandatory. If you find yourself standing side-by-side under the mistletoe with your boss, a stranger, or literally anyone you’re not trying to smooch, try an air kiss, hug, handshake, high five or a shoulder shrug instead.Tradition says it’s bad luck to not kiss under the mistletoe. But beware of the berries because they could be poisonous.

So, this is the story of Mistletoe. It’s quite a nice way to get an unexpected kiss during the holidays.

Reposted courtesy of James Cooper of out of the U.K.

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