We all know about the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe during the Christmas season. Almost all of us have seen this tradition in movies or on television and some may have even participated in the tradition! However, the use of mistletoe in the home dates back long before the current tradition took hold. In fact, it dates back to the time of Greek mythology. Let’s find out more about mistletoe and learn how it became a Christmas tradition that we know and love today.
Where does the tradition of kissing under mistletoe come from?
Mistletoe first became prominent as a symbol in Greek mythology (it is believed to be The Golden Bough of Aeneas ). However, it was the Druids that began to use mistletoe in the home when they would collect plants during winter to decorate their homes. They believed that the plant had healing and mystical properties. Mistletoe was also important in Scandinavian cultures and mythology. Eventually it became known across Europe as a representation of male essence, and it was this that linked the plant with romance, vitality and fertility.
Christianity spread throughout much of Europe in the 3rd century and it was after this time that mistletoe was integrated into this new religion. However, it wasn’t known for the custom of kissing under the mistletoe until much later. The earliest evidence of this practice can be traced back to England in the 16th century when kissing under the mistletoe became very popular. However, the Christmas version of this custom is believed to have come from Scandinavia when a man and a woman who met under the mistletoe were obliged to kiss. In this version of the custom a man would pick a berry from the mistletoe after each kiss until there were no berries left, which meant no more kissing.
The use of mistletoe during the Christmas holidays began in earnest around the 18th century and spread to other English speaking countries. Tradition states that mistletoe should not touch the ground after it has been cut until it is removed from the home after Christmas.
Did you know?
The mistletoe used in Europe (Viscum album) is different from the mistletoe in North America (Phoradendron serotinum).