You’re standing in a bar being chatted up by a handsome stranger, would you ever dream of just kissing him because you happen to be under the mistletoe, well, weird maybe – or is it? It is the 21st century after all! No point in dilly dallying- just seize the moment. Grab your chance to plant one on him, it’s a great excuse. There’s nothing like getting cosy under the mistletoe.
But wait a moment, hang on…why? Why does the fact someone has taped a few branches of a plant to the ceiling mean that we need to kiss? Have we ever stopped to think about how this tradition started and why we can take advantage of it?
Let’s check out where this comes from:
In the forest, mistletoe is a parasitic plant that latches on to trees and feeds off of them. But at Christmas, it becomes a symbol of romance. The plant’s association with romance dates back to ancient Norse mythology. It was considered a symbol of love, friendship, life and fertility. The latter due to its vivacity and ability of remaining green during winter. It represents the rebirth of vegetation in spring. By the 18th century, stealing a kiss beneath the mistletoe became common practice among British servants and the tradition spread from there. However, why a kiss? Historians believe the tradition of the kiss comes from the myth of Baldur’s death. Baldur, Baldr or Balder was a Norse deity, son of Odin and Frigg. He was loved by all beings from nature and by all the gods. He was extremely handsome, full of joy and he radiated light.
Baldur began to have dreams about his own death and his mother Frigg talked to every creature and thing in creation to secure his son’s life. She made them take an oath to not harm Baldur. Nevertheless, she overlooked the mistletoe for being too small and apparently harmless. It was when the mischievous god Loki, took this opportunity and created a spear made of mistletoe and convinced the blind god Hodr to throw it at Baldur and the god died.
There are different versions of what happened next, the main version says that Baldur died and the god Hermódr had the mission of going to Hel -in the Norse underworld- and bring the god back. The goddess of the underworld accepted under one condition: every last thing in the world had to weep for Baldur. The problem was that Loki, disguised as another living thing, refused. It is said that people began to kiss underneath the mistletoe in memory of Baldur. Another version says that Baldur came back from death thanks to the tears of his mother that went down to his wound and they turned into white berries. The goddess blessed the mistletoe and promised a kiss to all who passed under this magical plant.
The tradition evolved over time and according to it is bad luck to refuse a kiss beneath the mistletoe. After the kiss, the couple is to pluck one of the berries from the plant. Once all the berries are gone, the bough no longer has the power to command kisses. So if you hang a bough of mistletoe this year, make sure it has plenty of berries on it!
I might not be part of the dating game anymore but I’m a romantic at heart, so if you find me standing under the mistletoe, I hope my husband is near me, otherwise I might just cause a problem as tradition says it’s ‘bad luck’ to refuse a kiss!