Ah mistletoe… this plant has long been associated with the Christmas season, and so has the tradition of kissing underneath it. But what exactly is mistletoe, and why do we have it in our homes at Christmas?
What is Mistletoe?
Mistletoe (Viscum album) is a semi-parasitic plant that grows from the bark of deciduous trees, and takes minerals and water from its host. It prefers orchard trees like apple, but is also found growing on other species of tree including willow, lime and occasionally oak.
This evergreen plant forms a ball-like structure. It is seen hanging from bare trees in the wintertime, and its pairs of green leaves and white cascading berries are a wonderful display when there is little else blooming. It provides an important habitat for wildlife, and is a source of winter food for birds.
The leaves, stems and berries on mistletoe are poisonous to humans, so if you have it in your home keep it well away from young children and animals!
What does Mistletoe Symbolise?
Mistletoe was used by the Druids as a symbolic plant during the winter solstice, and during the middle ages, it was a custom to hang bunches of mistletoe to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits.
In Norse mythology, mistletoe is symbol of love and friendship and it is thought that is where the kissing tradition came from. Today, avoiding the creepy dude with mistletoe is often the norm at the office party, but traditionally a kiss under the mistletoe was thought to create a long lasting friendship, or romance.
In modern Christmas festivities, using mistletoe and other evergreen plants as part of our celebrations shows how much older Pagan traditions are still relevant today. It seems there’s just something about fresh evergreen leaves that brings cheer to our homes and spirits in winter.
So, if you’re looking for a last minute gift, or if you are visiting friend or relatives over Christmas, try a bunch of mistletoe to wish them well for the new year!