I wrote a blog about the mistletoe (in Dutch) for my friends at inspiratie-interieur.nl. I translated (and altered it a little) it to English for some of my Instagram friends. If you want to read it in Dutch: it’s just one click away.
The mistletoe… You’ve probably heard of it (a kiss, anyone?), but what’s in the name of this plant? And where does the kissing ritual originate from?
We’re nearing Christmas which makes it the perfect time to buy one of these mysterious plants. Even though the don’t look too special — a bunch of little green twigs with white berries attached to them — there’s much to tell.
I didn’t understand why anyone would buy the mistletoe when I just started working. My colleague was very fond of them and always bought one around Christmas to… hang it up. Why around Christmas in particular? And why would he hang it up anyway?
But… this is a couple of years ago. Now I know the story about the mistletoe and do actually like them very much. I even bought the plant this year and… hung it up above our front door. It looks great and I get to kiss that good looking mailman 😉
“The Kissing Plant”
The mistletoe is relevant to several cultures and is associated with many rituals. The “Kiss me under the mistletoe” ritual is a famous example. To find out how it became The Kissing Plant, we’ll have to go back in time.
The mistletoe was connected to the god Balder in the Germanic culture. Balder was killed by a spearpoint made of a twig of the mistletoe. His mother, Fyra, was able to resurrect him from the dead. From that day on (she was very happy, of course!) she kissed everyone who walked under a tree that had a mistletoe attached to it.
Another ritual, probably not as well known as the previous one, is related to vitality and fertility. Farmers would attach mistletoes to their stables to increase their chances of having a healthy flock with many young animals. And on top of that, the mistletoe would expel the bad and diseases. Sounds like a great plant, right?
It’s most likely that these rituals are based on the fact that the mistletoe magically (and seemingly randomly) appears high up in the trees. It was hard to explain so the gap to some superstition was easy to bridge.
It seems that the kissing ritual has survived the test of time. Nowadays it’s just a nice plant with a great love story (and ritual!) attached to it. And let’s be honest: out of all the rituals, this is the best one to keep, right?
What’s in a name?
The name mistletoe originally referred to the species Viscum album.
Viscum means “sticky” and Album means “white”. The name clearly refers to the berries. Their pulp is very sticky. The name “mistletoe” comes from the Old English word “mistle” and (probably) refers to the fact that its sticky. The word “toe” comes from the Old English word “tān” and means “twig”. So I guess they thought it was a sticky twig in the early days 🙂
The mistletoe is a hemiparasite, in the sense that it only obtains water and mineral nutrients from the host plant. It won’t kill its host under natural conditions.
It usually grows in the top of a tree. The reason that it’s usually found there is because its seed is spread out by birds. There are birds that eat the berries and defecate the hard to digest seed onto the branches of trees. Another group of birds eat the berries but skip the seed and leave the latter on the branches. Either way, the seed is left on the branch of a tree and germinates there. With some luck, it finds water and minerals and is able to grow into a beautiful mistletoe.
Mistletoe Kissing Prank
A bunch of green, mysterious plants in a — sometimes bald — tree look funny and sometimes make a gorgeous view. The next time you see one, you’ll know what it is and where it originates from. Maybe you can even recall some of it’s rituals and you can start sharing some stories 🙂
And… if you get one to your own place, don’t forget to kiss the good looking mailman. And for the grand finale: the Mistletoe Kissing Prank. Just a nice video to end this post with. It definitely confirms its reputation as The Kissing Plant! 🙂