Uh oh! Is that mistletoe?
Dec 22 2022 | Written by Rheanna Summers (She/Her)
Given that the holiday season is upon us, for this week’s blog I felt compelled to write about a relatively light and festive topic while remaining understanding and considerate of the fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas! You see, like many others I grew up with the holiday traditions of both old and new Christmas movies. I’ll never forget this scene in the Grinch where Jim Carrey plucks the mistletoe from Mindy Sterling’s hands and then proceeds to cause complete chaos.
While it’s an awesome movie, this scene really calls in to question what mistletoe truly is and how it has become such a classic holiday staple. Spoiler alert: mistletoe has a longgg history that encompasses both menstruation and fertility. So, without further ado, before you potentially find yourself “under the mistletoe” (thanks Justin) this festive season, let’s take a deeper look into why people love this plant so much.
The Myths of Mistletoe
In nearly every Christmas movie that I’ve seen, mistletoe is usually featured in one way or another. For some, mistletoe represents a cheeky festive decoration! But for others, it is actively avoided at holiday gatherings. You see, mistletoe has been around for years. And I mean hundreds of years! Even though this plant has now become a symbol of love and romance, at one point in time, mistletoe had roots in Norse mythology and was used by Celtic Druids and within ancient Greek remedies. Nowadays, mistletoe can commonly be found in the doorways of homes, unsuspectingly waiting for two people to stand under it.
If you’re like me and enjoy mythology, the fact that mistletoe plays a part within Norse folklore is fascinating. Given how mainstream mistletoe has become, the idea that it has such a diverse history is rather unexpecting. Here is a link that explains how their folklore is related to mistletoe if you’d like to read more.
Important Disclaimer: Do not ingest mistletoe- it is poisonous to humans.
Mistletoe as a Remedy for Cramps…. And Enhancing Fertility
Nowadays, there hasn’t been enough research done to truly grasp the potential medical benefits to mistletoe. That being said, even in small amounts, mistletoe is poisonous to humans due to the fact that it contains toxic amines. However, this did not stop the ancient Greek from using mistletoe as a means to reduce menstruation cramps. Additionally, it was also believed that this plant could cure many other illnesses and forms of disease, including ulcers, poison, and epilepsy through the form of a mistletoe balm. Given the fact that it is toxic to humans, best to stick to merely kissing under it… or avoiding it altogether if that’s your jazz instead!
In the 1st century A.D., Celtic Druids saw mistletoe as being a representation of both fertility and vivacity. Through the consumption of mistletoe, it was presumed that this would enhance fertility given the fact that this plant could both survive and bloom in the dead of winter, while all other things died and decayed. Today, mistletoe is not used as a viable method to increase fertility. Instead, it is regarded as an excuse to steal a smooch!
It appears as if the history of kissing under the mistletoe comes from servants in England who began this tradition, which then made its way to the middle class people as well. The catch was that it was considered bad luck if a man went in for a kiss under the mistletoe and a woman refused. Not the greatest incentive for giving consent but hey. Additionally, given that mistletoe tends to have berries, another tradition was to pull off one berry at a time and one kiss would equal one berry. Sorta like that whole “does he love” or “does he love me not” thing with flower petals.
Friendly Reminder and Happy Holidays!
While the mistletoe that we know today can be fun, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone appreciates unsuspecting kisses. For some, it may be the perfect opportunity for that sneaky first kiss but for others it may just not be the vibe. Regardless of the myths of mistletoe, it is simply just good practice to ask first if it’s okay to smooch someone you don’t know.
Either way, have an amazing holiday season! No matter what you celebrate, I hope it is done with lots of love and laughter, surrounded by people that bring you joy.