Kissing underneath the mistletoe is among the most favourite of traditions celebrated during the holiday season.
But where did this unique symbol of the season come from? The interesting telltale folklore of the mistletoe dates back well into the Victorian age.
Mistletoe has as many customs and traditions from various cultures as the meaning of Christmas itself. Christian history will tell us that mistletoe was entwined into a wreath of evergreens, holly, bayberry, rosemary and yew.
Baby Jesus was placed inside this revered wreath, onto a soft bed of moss. The remainder of the wreath was decorated with ribbon, nuts, fruits and berries of mistletoe.
As a remembrance to this tradition, future generations re-created the holy mistletoe bough. When complete, it was first blessed by a priest, then hung inside the front door. As a gesture of goodwill, guests were greeted and kissed under the decorated bough. Any bad feelings were both forgiven and forgotten underneath the mistletoe.
The Victorian age welcomed kissing underneath the mistletoe as a Christmas ritual that might lead to romance and marriage. As folklore tells, one berry was removed for every kiss received. When the berries were gone, so were the kisses!
In ancient Celtic traditions, enemies would meet beneath the mistletoe branches in the forest, lay down their arms and offer one another a truce. The Celts believed the mistletoe possessed miraculous healing powers, holding within the soul of the host tree. In an unspoken language, the symbolic Mistletoe represented the belief that “all is healed”.
European folklore is perhaps the most interesting. As history dates back, the mistletoe plant was known to have magical, mystical and sacred properties. Branches were hung above entrances to ward off evil spirits.
The Druids used mistletoe to overcome sterility, along with using it as an antidote for poison.
From all traditions came the ritual of hanging the mistletoe bough above doorways, signifying a token of goodwill and peace to all comers. If we were to peel away the layers of historic customs and traditions, one could say that at one time the mistletoe herb was certainly known to possess fertility and aphrodisiac qualities.
Today, fresh mistletoe is difficult to find. Often grown as a parasitic plant, it can be found in hardwood forests across Europe. Mistletoe (viscum album) is part of the Loranthaceae family and is commonly known as the “all-heal” herb.
What history tells us is that kissing under the mysterious mistletoe has long been a tradition of Christmases past.
This holiday season, hang a sprig of mistletoe in your home. Celebrate the ancient ritual of kissing underneath the mistletoe as a sign of love, romance and good fortune.