Oh, the allure of the traditional appearance of the Mistletoe during the Holidays. An expected green of tradition with slightly shiny, white berries scattered in clusters over the thin branches covered with glossy green leaves. “Mistletoe”. It’s magic rests in the tradition of the kiss it requests. A Christmas kiss, indeed.
This highly regarded emblem of Christmas is quite an interesting plant. “Mistletoe” is actually the common name for hemi-parasitic plants. Who knew? I certainly did not! Growing attached to and penetrating within the branches of a tree or shrub (a structure called haustorium), mistletoe absorbs nutrients from the ‘host’ plant it invades. Of interest, Tenebery Wells, England, is widely acknowledged to be the “Mistletoe capital of Britain”. Poplar trees, willows, hawthorns and many fruit trees bear the airy, silhouetted, spherical masses of mistletoe. The name “Misteltoe” was originally applied to Viscum Album (European Mistletoe, Santalaceae) and is a species native to Europe, particularly Great Britain. The European Mistletoe is easily recognized with its oval evergreen, smooth edged leaves that grow in pairs along its woody stem. The white waxy berries embellish the twig in dense clusters of 2 to 6 berries. Although the berries that dot this plant are poisonous, it has not deterred its acclaim. In the United States, the genus Viscum does not grow wild, however, the Eastern Mistletoe (from the genus Phoradendron Flavescens) is somewhat similar but has even shorter and broader leaves with longer clusters of 10 or more berries. From the West to the East coast and in Florida, the American mistletoe grows its beauty onto host trees. The tradition of the Mistletoe remains a holiday classic. Of interest, according to custom, the mistletoe must not touch the ground between the cutting and removal of the Christmas greens. Again, Who knew?
An iconic emblem of Christmas in North America, it’s appreciation in Europe travels back through history. The importance of this plant is said to be linked to a Scandinavian tale. Once also thought to be holy and sacred, the mistletoe plant acquired a respect and appreciation for its religious or mystical claims. It is believed that the allure of the mistletoe would eventually lead to widespread appeal and the tradition and custom of the kiss linking its glossy leaves and berries of white into history. In fact, the earliest documented “Kiss” under the mistletoe dates from 16th century England. The popularity of this custom has certainly continued into modern day. Further history, taken from an American author Washington Irving, in his 1820 writing etches the visual description: “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.” Alas! Who knew? Oh, to run out of berries before you have been kissed by the one you adored! Oh, to receive a magical kiss “under the mistletoe“!
The ancient Christmas custom in which when a man and a woman that meet underneath the hanging cluster of mistletoe…
Obliged or delighted to share a kiss. An enchanting tradition during the Holiday Season that fills the archives of lyrics of many a classic Holiday tune. The enduring custom of the Christmas Kiss. Cheers to adding a cluster of mistletoe to your holidays!