The other day I came home and found mistletoe hanging on the door of our house. We all know about the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe, but where does this tradition come from? There is actually more than one story.
To the ancient Celtic druids mistletoe was a sacred plant with healing powers and as an aid to fertility. They cut it with a golden sickle, but they didn't kiss under it. In ancient Greece it was also associated with fertility and people kissed under it during the Saturnalia festival or in marriage ceremonies. For Scandinavians mistletoe was a plant of peace under which they declared a truce. In 18th century England there were "kissing balls", balls of mistletoe decorated with ribbons, evergreens and ornaments. Young ladies standing under such a kissing ball could not refuse a kiss. If a lady remained unkissed, it meant that she would not marry the next year, indeed people even avoided her saying she would probably stay an old maid. My favorite is the story of Frigg, a Norse goddess. When the god Loki set out to kill her son Balder, she made each animal and each plant on Earth promise to not harm Balder. The mistletoe that grows in trees, however, was forgotten. Loki made an arrow from a mistletoe branch and made the blind god of winter, Hoder, shoot Balder. The tears that Frigg shed over him are said to have turned into the white mistletoe berries.
When she was able to revive Balder after three days, she was so happy that she kissed everyone who walked by under the tree on which the mistletoe had grown and decreed that who stands under the mistletoe should be not harmed but kissed. I have to admit that the English tradition of plucking a berry off the mistletoe after each kiss had been new to me. When all berries are gone, the kissing is over. Reason enough to get a big mistletoe with lots of berries, right?