On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love queried me: “Why do we feel compelled to kiss someone whenever we’re near a sprig of mistletoe?”
This is a mystery on more than one level. After all, while some varieties of mistletoe have been used throughout history to treat ailments ranging from leprosy to menstrual pain, others are actually toxic. As if that weren’t enough, mistletoe is a parasitic plant, stealing its host’s water, nutrients, and sunlight. How’s that for holiday spirit?
Fact is, there are a couple of stories behind this tradition, the most prosaic of which says that the plant’s seeds are coated with a substance that allows them to stick to tree branches, allowing a new plant to dig into a host tree and gain shape. Hence, we hold another person close beneath it.
The more interesting version comes to us from Norse mythology, in which the god Baldur was so beloved by the other gods that they sought to shield him from all possible hazards. His mother, the goddess Frigg, took an oath from the elements, the animals, irons and metals, nature, and sicknesses that they would not harm her son. At a large gathering, stones, arrows and flames were flung at Baldur, testing his invincibility, but of course none of them made a dent. The mischievous (and jealous) god Loki set out to find the one thing on earth that Frigg might have forgotten to solicit, which was—you guessed it!—the mistletoe plant. A dart fashioned from the homely little plant brought about Baldur’s untimely end, breaking the heart of his mother, whose tears became the plant’s white berries. According to Steve Whysall in the Vancouver Sun, she decreed that “mistletoe would never again be used as a weapon and that she would place a kiss on anyone who passed under it.”
My take: Whether you side with the natural or Norse explanation, an opportunity to steal a kiss should never be taken lightly . . . and if there’s a sprig of mistletoe handy, your chance of success just went up exponentially. Be sure to whisper a word of thanks to Frigg while you’re under there.
Recipe for a Perfect Holiday Mistletoe Kiss
When in doubt, ask the experts: http://www.howcast.com/videos/387677-How-to-Successfully-Pull-Off-a-Mistletoe-Kiss