Why do we kiss under it? What is it? When was it first used? All these questions will be answered by the end of this article.
First up, what is it? It turns out that mistletoe is actually a parasite. Not, like, one of those little bug crawl-ey things that gives you infections, but it grows on the branches of trees and starves the tree of water and nutrients. The tree dies, but the mistletoe lives on.
It dates back to ancient Roman times, and was thought to be used as a medicine to help with epilepsy, ulcers and as an anti-poison, and it was also seen as a symbol of fertility, since it could blossom during winter. It also took on Greek mythology roles, and was used as a weapon to kill the God, Baldur, whose mother Frigg, the greek goddess of love, vowed to kiss anyone who walked under mistletoe.
Up into the 18th century, it’s believed that servants to families kissed under mistletoe. Nobody still seems to know why it’s a part of Christmas celebrations, but possibly because it blossoms during winter. Men were allowed to steal a kiss from a woman who was caught under the decoration, and another story says that men could pluck a berry off the mistletoe for each kiss. But when the berries were gone, the kissing was done.
Check out more information on the history of mistletoe here.