What is Mistletoe?


Christmas holiday traditions abound. One of the most popular involves you tricking that special someone into standing under the mistletoe so you can steal a kiss without getting slapped.

Conversation starter. Begin your wooing with a scientific answer to the “What is mistletoe?” question. According to the American Cancer Society, mistletoe is a “semiparasitic plant that grows on several species of trees native to Great Britain, Europe, and western Asia.” According to the Society for the Confluence of World Festivals and Celebrations, mistletoe “is an aerial parasite that has no roots of its own and lives off the tree that it attaches itself to.” It’s also a symbol of love, peace and goodwill. It’s this love, peace and goodwill angle you’ll want to play up as you wrap your arms around that special someone while approaching the mistletoe hanging above the doorway.

Mistletoe kissing legend No. 1. According to Norse Mythology, mistletoe was the sacred plant of Frigga, goddess of love. Her son Balder was the god of the summer sun, who could not be hurt by anything in the earth or under the sun. Balder’s only enemy, Loki, knew of one plant that did not grow under the sun or in the earth, a plant that grew on oak trees and apple trees. That plant was mistletoe. Loki made an arrow tip out of mistletoe, which struck Balder dead. The only thing that could revive Balder were the tears of his mother. Those tears turned into white berries on the mistletoe plant. In her joy, Frigga kissed anyone who came under mistletoe. Frigga soon after declared that no harm would come to those who stood under mistletoe and that those who did would be blessed with a kiss.

Mistletoe kissing legend No. 2. The practice of kissing under the mistletoe may have begun with the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia. Because mistletoe was associated with fertility, the mistletoe became a logical spot for making out. In addition, ancient legend states that a woman standing under a ball of mistletoe adorned with evergreens, ribbons and ornaments could not resist being kissed. Many remnants of the festival of Saturnalia, celebrated toward the end of December, can be found in Christmas traditions, such as the mistletoe.

Whatever the reason for kissing under the mistletoe this holiday season, enjoy it.

Found in: Holidays
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