I bet all those Christmas movies and songs did make you want to grab somebody and kiss them under the mistletoe for once. Yes, with their consent!
But why do people kiss under mistletoe?
If Christmas itself isn’t romantic enough the tradition around it makes it more special as we spend it with our friends, family, and loved ones.
It’s special! Here we will be talking about one special tradition that has been mostly mentioned in pop culture
There is at least one movie you definitely have seen where the protagonist is confessing their unending love for each other and the camera zooms for them to be standing under a mistletoe.
Yes, beautiful indeed but I always wondered why did so. I mean it’s just a plant! What meaning those things piney part of the plant has to do with people kissing under it.
So, I did my research and tried my best to understand the culture and tradition behind it. Here the reason why people kiss under the mistletoe!
What is a Mistletoe?
It is a leathery-leaved parasitic plant that grows host trees like oak or other broadleaf trees. It bears white glutinous berries in winter. It’s commonly known as obligate hemiparasitic plants
As it attaches itself to the host tree or shrub and extracts water and nutrients from the host plant. In simple words, it’s a parasite plant.
Now you must be wondering how does a parasitic plant gets associated with a tradition which is filled with love and peace.
Mythology around mistletoe
There are several traditional references to the use of mistletoe. For example, in Pagan cultures, mistletoe’s white berry fruits are considered as the symbol of male fertility.
Whereas ancient Greek mythology mentioned mistletoe was the medium by which Aeneas went to the underworld.
Furthermore, Druidic mythology mentions the use of Oak and Mistletoe It was used in some kind of ritual for the people of that time. Some historian has found traces of mistletoe on the bodies which were suspected of being used for human sacrifice.
However, the tradition changed after the Romans. Where the Romans believed in mistletoe with peace, love, and understanding. They would hang in on the doors to protect the household.
Some historians believe that the kissing under mistletoe tradition was inspired by Norse mythology. As Goddess Frigg’s son Baldur was cursed to die.
The goddess of love Frigg, gathered all the plants and animals from earth to take an oath not to harm Baldur. however, she forgot the mistletoe. Baldur grew up to be invincible.
That’s when the god of mischief made an arrow out of mistletoe to kill Baldur which he was successful. However, gods retrieved Baldur from the dead. And Frigg made the mistletoe a symbol of love.
She then promised to kiss those who passed underneath it. This was the oldest mythology associated with mistletoe.
Why Do People Kiss Under Mistletoe – The Origin
The origin of the tradition is still unknown as it was never documented in history. Whereas the oldest evidence of this tradition comes from few pieces of art and literature from the 18th and 19th centuries.
“screamed and struggled, and ran into corners, and threatened and remonstrated, and did everything but leave the room until some of the less adventurous gentlemen were on the point of desisting when they all at once found it useless to resist any longer, and submitted to be kissed with good grace.”Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers, published in 1837
It is suggested that the tradition originally started in the united kingdom’s servant class that spread into the working class of the society.
The servants of the British royal were the ones to start kissing under the mistletoe. It was believed that if a woman refused the kiss then bad luck would fall upon her.
Once taken seriously has become a light-hearted joke now. And the tradition has somehow become more respected. Other than that mistletoe is used in the Christmas decor tradition. These were the tradition that got adapted by different classes later.
Another theory behind the tradition suggests that the Mistletoe has always been associated with fertility. And it is one of the plants that manage to survive the harsh cold weather.
Together the plant symbolizes the power of love and fertility that must survive in the harshness of life like the cold weather. Also, the fact that it is the only plant that survives the winter. It is used in the Christmas decoration in households.
The popularization of the tradition
Even though the tradition started in originally started somewhere in Uk. It has successfully spread across the globe. And the credit for popularising it also goes to an American writer Washington Irving. In one of his famous books, he wrote briefly wrote about his experience from living in England.
An American writer shared his experience of this Christmas tradition in his book called The Sketchbook while returning upon from England.
He explained exactly this tradition takes place and the procedure of the tradition. He was the one who popularized the tradition in America and to this date, it is one of the most cherished traditions followed in Christmas.
“The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.”Washington Irving’s The Sketch Book, which was published in 1820 had a footnote in the chapter named “Christmas Eve
Somehow it has entered the mainstream of American pop culture’s way of Christmas storytelling. From books to songs it has mentioned in different genres over the years.
One of the famous songs by Justin Bieber called “Mistletoe” describes the Christmas spirit while longing to be kissed under the mistletoe. The prominence of the tradition has expanded to a greater extent.
Despite these many leads, it’s still a mystery where the tradition actually started and how it started. All the above are the assumption made by the historian about the time how it might have been the root ” Kissing under the mistletoe” tradition.
However, it’s amusing to see how a poisonous plant has become the symbol of love over the centuries. It has given the lover an opportunity to celebrate their love in the cold winter.
Celebrate the love in the holidays by planting a kiss on your loved ones.