One of my FAVORITE traditions I say!!! I also like to decorate with natural elements, and mistletoe can be hung like a ball, or just a sprig, and it still looks nice. But where did the ritual of kissing under the mistletoe at Christmas time come from and what's so special about it ?
Before there were any Christmas trees, the custom to kiss beneath it most likely originated in pre-Christian Europe where it was believed that mistletoe possessed life bestowing properties and was associated with fertility. Along this line of thinking, mistletoe was also used as an aphrodisiac and, if that were not enough, it was used as an antidote to poison and to witchcraft as well. Hence, the custom of hanging mistletoe over a doorway to ward off evil spirits from crossing your threshold.
So where did the tradition of kissing under a parasitic twig come from? The mistletoe has been considered a prized plant throughout history going all the way back to the Ancient Greeks, Celts, the Babylonians, and Scandinavians. According to Ancient Babylonian legend, they had the closest thing to our current tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. At that time, single women looking for a mate supposedly would stand outside of the temple of the goddess of love. Mistletoe was hung over the entrance to the temple and when a potential suitor would approach one of the ladies, they were supposed to bond with him. They did not kiss, however, as kissing wasn’t a way to show affection at that time in the Babylonian empire.
As for a more direct root of our kissing tradition, Norseman had many traditions and legends concerning the mistletoe. One tradition was that mistletoe was a plant of peace and so that when enemies met under the mistletoe they were obliged to stop fighting for at least a day. Eventually, this spawned a tradition to hang mistletoe over the doorway of one’s home for peace and good luck.
Mistletoe became associated with Christmas from this tradition of hanging mistletoe in one’s home to bring good luck and peace to those within the house. The mistletoe would be hung around the New Year and the previous year’s mistletoe would be taken down, with its powers apparently tapped. The new plant would then provide this luck throughout the year.
By the 18th century in Britain, this evolved into the kissing tradition we have today. At this time, it became popular to create a ball of mistletoe that would be hung as a Christmas decoration. If a couple was found standing under the mistletoe, they were then obliged to kiss if the mistletoe ball still had berries. For each kiss, one berry would be taken from the ball. Once all the berries were gone, all the “luck” in love and marriage was considered to be drained out of the mistletoe and it was now considered bad luck to kiss beneath it, instead of good luck as before.
But I can tell you this. If I find myself standing under it with a sexy gentleman, I'm planting a big one!!!!