Growing up, I failed to see the allure of hanging mistletoe and then possibly being grabbed and kissed by people I ordinarily wouldn’t shake hands with for any reason. I didn’t find is a particularly great addition to the holiday season. However, I recently came up with some interesting facts about the beloved Christmas weed.
For some reason, the fact that mistletoe stays green all winter, has earned it value as having a ‘stolen kisses power’. It is most noticeable in Winter because the leaves of the host tree are gone and the bunches of mistletoe show up on the bare branches.
There are 1,300 mistletoe species in the world. Canada and the United States are home to over 30 of these species. Hawaii has an additional six. In the world, more than twenty species are endangered.
Face it, the ‘magical’ mistletoe is a parasite and can only survive on the branches of trees and shrubs. In Greek, the mistletoe is called Phorademdron which translates to ‘tree thief’.
The ancient Anglo-Saxons made note of the fact that mistletoe grows where birds leave their droppings. Thus, in Anglo-Saxon, “mistel” translates into “dung” and “tan” means “twig”. Draw your own conclusions!
The custom of stealing kisses under the mistletoe dates back, possibly, to the 1500’s in Europe. Washington Irving mentioned it in “Christmas Eve” a story from his 1820 literary collection. In Mr. Irving’s day, the tradition was that each time a couple kissed under the mistletoe, they would remove one of the white berries. When the berries were gone, so was the kissing spell.