Whether you’re trying to avoid a kiss under the mistletoe this December or hoping with all you have that you and your crush find yourselves under one, we’re going to explain how the holiday tradition first came about.
The folklore of kissing under the mistletoe actually leads back to an old Norse legend. But before we dive into it, let’s do a brief refresher on what mistletoe is. The plant is often found in the wintertime in the canopies of fruit trees, maples, and even oaks. It is green in color with white berries and yellow leaves. Though it definitely brings a certain mood to a Christmas party, mistletoe is in fact a parasite that siphons water and nutrients from its host tree.
Now, let’s get into the Norse legend. Apparently, the god of love, Frigga, wanted to ensure the safety of her son and the god of innocence and light, Balder, so she made all creatures (animate and inanimate) agree not to harm him. Yet, Frigga forgot one creature on the list, and that was mistletoe. The god of evil, Loki, found this out and tricked Balder’s blind brother into killing Balder with an arrow of mistletoe. This explains why northerners experience long winter nights because of the death of sunlight (ie. Balder).
According to the legend, told by the Old Farmer’s Almanac, in Frigga’s sorrow, her tears fell onto the mistletoe turned into white berries. From then on, she declared the plant will only be for peace and love instead. Therefore, anyone who found themselves under a mistletoe were obligated to kiss.
Moreover, a thing such as “kissing balls” came about in the 1700s. These were made of mistletoe, holly and boxwood. Kissing balls would be placed in doorways and windows to increase a woman’s chance of getting married after being unable to refuse a kiss if found under it. Women who did not receive a kiss would supposedly still be single by next Christmas.
On a supplemental note, Mistletoe also contains the female sec hormone, progesterone, which could be another reason the plant is akin to kissing.
If you’re interested in learning even more about mistletoe and its folklore, you can here.