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December 11th, 2018

Why Do We Kiss Under the Mistletoe?

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‘Tis the season for lots of different traditions and customs. One of the traditions that we often see this time of year is hanging mistletoe in our homes.

The idea: whenever you meet a person underneath the mistletoe, you have to kiss!

It’s a holiday tradition that so many of us recognize…but do you really know where it comes from?

All About the Plant That Makes People Pucker Up

First and foremost, as you likely know, Mistletoe is a plant. It’s called a parasitic plant because in order to live, it has to grow on other trees. So even if you wanted to grow in a plot or in a garden, it wouldn’t be able to grow on its own. In large quantities, mistletoe can be poisonous, and that’s why not very many animals eat the plant.

When trees are bare in the coldest depths of winter, mistletoe is still happily present, and growing in its branches, making it quite unique and helping it to stand out even more!

There are actually both male and female mistletoe; female mistletoe refers to the plant that has berries, and that’s what most of us are familiar with when we talk about the mistletoe that hangs in our homes this time of year.

Mistletoe has actually been written about and talked about in different cultures for years. But where does the plant originate, geographically speaking? It’s primarily found in the southwest Midlands in the UK. That’s where it can grow on apple trees and other trees in the region (1).

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Sitting Under the Mistletoe… 

In the UK, mistletoe is associated with Christmas, as it also is here in the United States.

In France, they see mistletoe as a good luck charm, and instead of it being present at Christmas, they tend to give it to friends around the New Year as a gift to wish others luck in that calendar year (1).

Some say the notion of kissing under the mistletoe started back in the 1700s. Others say it was really the Victorians (who loved rituals, routines, and customs) who pushed the idea of puckering up under the plant.

Another common idea is that the mistletoe has its roots in Greek and Roman literature. The ancient story says that the mistletoe’s white berries were tears displayed by the goddess of beauty, love, and marriage, named Frigga (and also called Frigg), when she cried for her son Baldr (also spelled Baldur). The story says she then announced that mistletoe should be a plant of love (1).

Another story says that it was the mistletoe that actually is what killed her beloved son, by accident, and then Frigga’s tears turned into berries on the mistletoe—which then brought him back to life (2).

Even with two different versions of the ancient story, the mistletoe still has carried on deep meaning that’s associated with love and affection!

Still other cultures and traditions (including Norwegian and Scandinavian) say that the mistletoe had a different meaning: one of peace of friendship. Others see it as a symbol of fertility and life…which is why people should kiss whenever they end up underneath it. In Australia, a sprig placed on the threshold is said to work against nightmares. In Wales, if placed under a pillow, it induces dreams of omen. In Sweden, they use rods of mistletoe to make divining rods (1, 2). It’s interesting that just one plant could have such a variety of stories and symbols associated with it.

Mistletoe And the Tie to Christmas

Now that we know just a bit of the history and some of the other traditions that include the mistletoe in some way, how exactly did it get involved with Christmas?

Well, according to historians, Charles Dickens! (3)

It appears that in many of Dickens’ stories, such as The Pickwick Papers and Irving’s Christmas Eve, he makes mention of the mistletoe and people kissing underneath it.

At that time (1830s-1850s) people would decorate homes with “kissing balls,” which were a combination of evergeen, ribbon, ornaments and—you guessed it—mistletoe. If two people were standing underneath the ball (also called “bough”), they would have to kiss. So what if the woman denied the kiss? It was said that if she didn’t want to kiss, she wouldn’t be married in the near future! (3)

Be Ready for That Special Kiss Under the Mistletoe

There seem to be a combination of stories that have resulted in the mistletoe having the meaning we give it today.

Take these steps and you’ll be ready to walk under any mistletoe this holiday season:

  • Brush at least twice a day—including before you go to bed
  • Gently brush your teeth when you brush and be sure to get that tongue, too
  • Remember flossing is just as important as brushing each day
  • Avoid tobacco!
  • Drink plenty of water and eat as nutritiously as possible (in other words, limit the added sugar)
  • See us at least twice a year for you regular deep, professional cleaning and for important oral health exams

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Have Nerves When It Comes to Getting Close?

If you believe you have bad breath and it just won’t seem to go away, there could be a number of issues at play in your mouth! We’re here to help you so you can get back total confidence!

We never want your dental health concerns to get in the way of your personal relationships. Call Hagen Dental Practice today to discuss how we can help you or a loved one: (513) 251-5500. You can also always set up an appointment online by clicking here.

Sources:

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/16164453
  2. https://www.uexpress.com/tell-me-a-story/2004/12/19/frigga-and-the-mistletoe-a-norse
  3. https://www.countryliving.com/life/a25319139/mistletoe-meaning-history/

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