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The Magical Story Behind the Tradition of Mistletoe

artwork by Stephanie Carreto

Stephanie Carreto, Staff Writer

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Enjoying a cup of eggnog, you walk around at a Christmas party, the festive spirit in full swing. Stopping in a doorway to take in the jolly scene, a stranger stands next to you, and you both look up only to realize you are standing underneath some mistletoe. What happens now?

   Many believe kissing under the mistletoe is just a tradition, but did you know there is actually a lot more to the backstory of mistletoe? Ranging from its medicinal purposes to Norse mythology, mistletoe is more than just a chance to score a kiss.

   “I think kissing under the mistletoe is actually more of a tradition than actually having a reason or purpose,” stated Senior Soul Zuzan. According to the History Channel’s official website, the Greeks believed that mistletoe was a cure for many ailments such as spleen disorders and menstrual cramps. Not very romantic, right? Also, it is said that the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder claimed mistletoe could be used as an ointment for epilepsy, ulcers, and poisons. Not what you were expecting? Me neither. For the Celtic Druids, mistletoe was a symbol for life because it could blossom even in the freezing winter. In turn, they would give it to animals and humans hoping it would rehabilitate their fertility (history.com). I guess that’s kind of romantic.

   Senior Henry Helmuth commented, “I think mistletoe adds to the festive spirit of Christmas more than anything else.” The official CBS News website reported that mistletoe is actually a parasite. It attaches itself to a variety of plants and steals their water and nutrients. After a while, the plant essentially dies. Not  romantic… so how did a parasitic plant become a cheery and romantic Christmas tradition? (cbsnews.com).

   Well, in Norse mythology, Baldur, the son of Odin, was prophesied to die. In order to protect her son, the goddess of love, Frigg, visited and wooed every plant and animal in the natural world to assure Baldur’s life. Unfortunately, Frigg forgot to negotiate with the mistletoe, and the mischievous Loki used the plant to make an arrow and killed Baldur. However, the gods were able to undo Loki’s mayhem and resurrect Baldur from the dead. In great happiness, Frigg affirmed mistletoe as a symbol of love and promised a kiss to all of those who passed underneath it (history.com).

   “I’ve never kissed anyone under the mistletoe, but maybe someday. I’ve also never seen someone else kiss under the mistletoe in real life, only in movies,” stated Senior Alan Castillo. It is supposedly bad luck to not kiss when underneath the mistletoe, according to the tradition stated on the official Fox News website. In the Eighteenth Century, British servants started the tradition by stealing kisses beneath the mistletoe. The couple who kisses is then supposed to pluck one of the berries from the mistletoe. The plant supposedly no longer has any influence on those who pass beneath it once it has no more berries (foxnews.com).

   So, what are you going to do? Kiss the stranger or walk away? The choice is yours. Thinking of hanging up some mistletoe this Christmas? Remember, if you want a lot of kisses, or any at all, make sure the mistletoe has a lot of berries, and ask your partner for permission before doing anything!

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The Magical Story Behind the Tradition of Mistletoe