Long been a symbol of the holiday season, the infamous mistletoe — or modern-day kissing ball — has been placed in doorways and arches the world around. Kissing underneath the mistletoe is a sign of love, romance and prosperity.
Christmas has a wide range of customs and traditions from many cultures and the meaning of the mistletoe is without exception.
As Christian history tells us, the use of mistletoe came into being when a ring of willow was entwined with evergreens of holly, bayberry and rosemary or yew.
In the middle of this ring, a baby Jesus was placed on a bed of moss. The remaining ring was decorated with ribbons, nuts, fruits and mistletoe.
This “holly bough” was hung inside the front door and blessed by a priest. As guests visited the house, they were kissed under the holly bough as a sign of goodwill. All bad feelings were forgiven and forgotten.
The Victorian ages speak to kissing under the mistletoe as a welcomed Christmas ritual that may lead to romance and marriage. The folklore of kissing under the mistletoe is to take one berry off for every kiss received. When all the berries are gone, so are the kisses.
The ancient Celts would recall a time when enemies would meet beneath mistletoe in the forest, lay down their arms, exchange a friendly greeting and keep a truce until the following day. In their language, mistletoe represents “All heal”.
European folklore tells stories of this plant having magical, mysterious and sacred properties. It was considered a bestower of life and fertility, able to protect from poison.
Even the Romans would legalize a marriage with a kiss underneath the mistletoe.
The mistletoe we see in stores today, is generally grown in the southern American states as a partial parasitic plant that suspends itself hanging within hardwood trees, particularly oak and apple.
This evergreen plant is easy to find prior to the holidays, as it nestles itself amongst the leafless trees. The mysterious mistletoe has pointed green leathery leaves with waxy white or red berries. The flowers of the plant range in colour from white to yellow to red.
From these old customs grew the practice of suspending mistletoe over a doorway or in a room as a token of good will and peace to all comers.
This Christmas, hang a sprig of this symbolic, berried plant in your home. Celebrate the ancient ritual of kissing under the mistletoe as a sign of love, romance and good luck.