Meet Me Under The Mistletoe!

When my sons were little boys, they would stand under the mistletoe at Christmastime and call out to me, “Mama, I’m under the mistletoe!”  Of course, they knew I would scoop them up and cover their little faces with kisses as they giggled and squirmed.

scan0099I like to hang mistletoe every year because I think it is simply another fun, Christmas tradition!  This year, I put up two because I was able to find some of the dried, real mistletoe to add to the decorative mistletoe ornament a dear friend gave me a few years ago.

Mistletoe 001

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The Yuletide custom of kissing under the mistletoe is practiced all over the world, and has its origins in ancient Scandinavia.  A sprig or ball of the mistletoe plant is hung over a doorway and the tradition goes that if a man and a woman meet under the mistletoe, they must kiss.  In earlier times, when live mistletoe was used, a berry was plucked from the plant with each kiss.  When the berries were gone, no more kissing was permitted under that plant.

Where to Find Mistletoe

The ancient Greeks exchanged kisses under the mistletoe at festivals as a promise to marry. At marital ceremonies, a kiss under mistletoe was believed to lead to good luck and a lifetime of love, happiness and fertility.

While mistletoe is still very much a part of our modern holiday decorating and tradition, most people don’t know that it is actually a partial parasitic plant (a hemiparasite) and comes in many varieties. It grows as a shrub in the branches of trees such as oak and apple, and sends its roots into the host tree for nutrients.  When the host tree goes dormant and brown for the winter, the mistletoe plant living in its branches is still green.

American Mistletoe grows naturally in Texas, so I always begin looking for mistletoe in the trees when the weather turns cold and the leaves fall.  The mistletoe seems to grow high in the trees and is never low enough to reach.

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Mistletoe trees 012These pictures were taken about five minutes from my house.

Usually, the mistletoe we hang during the holidays is either a plastic decoration, or a dried version with plastic berries.  Mistletoe berries are poisonous to humans and should not be eaten, however they are an essential food for birds, butterflies, insects and mammals such as squirrels and chipmunks.

mistletoe at hd

Mistletoe extract has been used as an herb to treat many human ailments, including headaches, and circulatory and respiratory system problems.  According to the National Cancer Institute, mistletoe is currently one of the most widely studied alternative medicine therapies for people with cancer.

Mistletoe has long been considered a sacred plant and folklore has it that it has many magical and mysterious qualities.  During the Middle Ages, branches of mistletoe were hung from the ceilings and over doorways to ward off evil spirits.  In some parts of the world, the mistletoe plant symbolizes peace.

to ward off evil spirits.

In ancient times, if one encountered an enemy while out walking in the woods, and happened to be under a tree with mistletoe in it, it was the custom for both parties to lay down their arms and declare a truce until the next day. This act of goodwill may have been what eventually led to the custom of kissing under the mistletoe.

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As you decorate your home for Christmas this year, consider hanging some mistletoe for both fun and good luck. Whether its powers are real or mythical, you never know what might happen the next time you find yourself under the mistletoe. It might even spark some romance!

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Author’s note:  My husband swears there are “mistletoe trees” all over our neighborhood.  Whenever we go for a walk in the evening, he will constantly stop under trees and point up and say, “There’s mistletoe!”

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4 thoughts on “Meet Me Under The Mistletoe!”

  1. As always, I learned something new. I didn’t know mistletoe had medicinal qualities. Merry Christmas everybody!

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