Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Traditions #2- Mistletoe

Most people who go all out for their decorating at Christmas have at least one sprig of mistletoe hanging in a doorway. Some decorating connoisseurs go so far as to have mistletoe laden kissing balls hanging all over their homes. I would love to be in a place like that if Johnny Depp or Henry Cavill (sorry, I've been watching The Tudors) were around. Full on snog-fest baby!

But why mistletoe? Where does the legend of kissing under the mistletoe come from?

In Christian traditions, mistletoe was actually once a very large tree. Supposedly, wood from the mistletoe tree was used to construct the True Cross and then after Jesus' death, the mistletoe tree withered into a measly little vine.

Later in history, mistletoe was sacred to the Ancient Romans and Celtic Druids. They believed it had mystical properties and could increase the fertility rates in barren people and animals. Not so much! The berries of the mistletoe plant are highly poisonous.

Our tradition of kissing under the mistletoe actually comes out of Norse Mythology. Frigga, Queen of the Norse Gods and namesake for our modern word "Friday," wanted to protect her son Baldr, god of vegetation. To keep poisonous plants from harming Baldr as he made them grow, Frigga put a spell of protection on him. Somehow, this spell didn't cover the mistletoe plant. When Loki, the trickster god, discovered this, he tricked one of the other gods into using a mistletoe spear to kill Baldr. Frigga was so devastated over the death of her son that she declared mistletoe sacred- rather than kill, it would bring love to any two people who kissed when crossing under it. Whenever we kiss under the mistletoe, we are celebrating a mother's love for her fallen child.

As Christianity spread into the Scandanavian areas, this pagan tradition of kissing under the mistletoe sort of blended into Christian traditions. So if you sneak a kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas season, whether you realize it or not, you are celebrating many different kinds of love. Smooch on!!!

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