The Mistletoe, a highly popular decoration item for Christmas and also the name of a Justin Bieber Christmas song. Everybody knows that if they’re standing underneath a mistletoe they can expect a kiss. But where does this tradition come from?
The Mistletoe is not as loving as you might think. The Mistletoe (Latin name: Viscum Album) is actually a parasitic plant which grows on trees in spherical bushes. It survives by tapping water and soil minerals from the tree they are growing on. Because the Mistletoe steals its nutrients from her host she maintains her green colour throughout the entire year. So even when the trees have lost all their leaves the Mistletoe is still green. You can recognize the Mistletoe by her leathery leaves and light green berries.
Poo on a stick
The English name Mistletoe is a combination of two Anglo-Saxon words: the word mistel, meaning manure, and the word tan, meaning stick. So Mistletoe actually means poo on a stick, isn’t that romantic?
The plant’s romantic tradition most likely started with the Celtic Druids. Because Mistletoe could blossom even during the frozen winter, the Druids came to view it as a sacred symbol of fertility. The Druids administered it to humans and animals alike in the hope of restoring fertility. They also saw the Mistletoe as a symbol of love and peace. They believed so strongly in its powers that when enemies would meet each other beneath a mistletoe they would drop their weapons and had a truce for a day. That’s probably one of the reasons why we still hang Mistletoe on our ceilings during Christmas. It’s a sign of friendship and goodwill, which is completely in line with the Christmas spirit.
The kissing tradition
Mistletoe’s associations with fertility and vitality continued through the Middle Ages, and by the 18th century, it had become widely incorporated into Christmas celebrations. The kissing tradition appears to have first caught on among servants in England before spreading to the middle classes. As part of the early custom, men were allowed to steal a kiss from any woman caught standing under the mistletoe, and refusing was viewed as bad luck. Yet another tradition says to pluck a single berry from the mistletoe with each kiss and to stop kissing once they were all gone.