Gifts for the one you kiss under the mistletoe
swags of holly and mistletoe
Christmas traditions explained: Mistletoe
Why do we pucker up under the mistletoe each Christmas? There's a number of stories.
One dates back to Norse mythology. In that tale, the god Baldur was certain that Earth's plants and animals wanted to kill him, so his mother and wife negotiated with every living thing to leave Baldur alone. But mistletoe was the one plant his wife and mother overlooked, and, ultimately, Baldur was killed with an arrow made from the plant.
"We kiss beneath it to remember what Baldur's wife and mother forgot," biologist Rob Dunn wrote in Smithsonian Magazine.
Druids, or ancient Celtic people, believed mistletoe had magical powers and used it during rituals. Because of its use in pagan ceremonies, mistletoe was banned in Christian places of worship, according to Leonard Perry, a forestry professor at the University of Vermont. It's unclear when mistletoe became associated with Christmas, he wrote.
The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe dates back to 16th century England, and is possibly related to the belief of the plant's "effects on fertility and conception," according Frank Turner, a professor in the Forest Resources department at Clemson University.
"Today, greenery is still much used, but the use of mistletoe is seldom practiced even though almost everyone has heard of the custom of kissing under the mistletoe," he wrote in an article for The American Phytopathological Society. "Such a custom seems sweetly quaint and naive and perhaps is not sophisticated enough to survive our modern moral standards."
Pronunciation: /ˈmɪs(ə)ltəʊ /
Definition of mistletoe in English:
A leathery-leaved parasitic plant which grows on apple, oak, and other broadleaf trees and bears white glutinous berries in winter.
Several species in the family Viscaceae, in particular the Eurasian Viscum album and the North American Phoradendron flavescens
Old English misteltān, from mistel 'mistletoe' (of Germanic origin, related to Dutch mistel and German Mistel) + tān 'twig'.