Mistletoe, in older times, was believed to have protective properties and was hung to ward off evil spirits. Celts believed that mistletoe, a parasitic plant that grows on trees, had special powers that could heal diseases, make poisons harmless, protect against evil spells and bring fertility to childless women. For many years, Christian places of worship did not allow it inside because of its pagan associations. But nowadays it is mostly used as an excuse to steal a kiss.
The origin of our tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is lost in the mists of antiquity. Some say it probably stemmed from the Druids, who considered it sacred and would declare a truce in an area where it grew.
Others say the custom comes from the old festival of Saturnalia, and still others claim it comes from old Norse mythology and the tale of Baldur's death from a twig of mistletoe. Legend has it that the tears of his mother, Frigga, changed the berries of the mistletoe from red to white.
Whatever the origin of the tradition, most consider it a good deal of light-hearted fun to steal a kiss under the mistletoe. Just be careful whom you kiss--a jealous spouse may be lurking.
Despite its use as a holiday decoration and its association with love, peace, and stolen kisses, mistletoe is actually a parasite. It lives on trees and shrubs, tapping into the plant's nutrients by sending its roots under the bark. Mistletoe can weaken, or even kill, a plant. It is also poisonous (all parts), so keep it out of the reach of children and pets!
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