ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- It’s a fun and romantic holiday tradition for some. With a checkered past tied to Norse mythology, murder, fertility, and 18th century England. It’s a wonder how kissing under the mistletoe has become part of holiday traditions.
It’s been said to be bad luck for a young woman to refuse a kiss under the mistletoe. Understandably this tradition has been looked down on in the era of the #MeToo movement.
With consent as the center of the #MeToo movement, women feeling obligated to kiss someone or men thinking they are entitled to kiss someone because they’re standing under mistletoe goes against the ideology of the movement.
Historians tie the use of mistletoe to the story of the Norse god Baldur. He feared that he was going to be killed, so Baldur’s mother, Frigg, saw to it that neither plant nor animal would harm her son, according to Time and History.com. However, she left out the mistletoe and it proved to be Baldur’s undoing.
Another Norse god ever the trickster, whose name is synonymous with the Marvel Universe, Loki, makes a spear or arrow out of mistletoe. With the mistletoe weapon, Loki is able to kill Baldur. It’s theorized this story is how the tradition of hanging mistletoe came to be.
“Baldur died, but a lesson was learned: Never forget about the mistletoe. Mistletoe would come to hang over our doors as a reminder to never forget. We kiss beneath it to remember what Baldur’s wife and mother forgot. At least that is one version of the origin of our relationship with mistletoe,” according to Smithsonian Magazine.
In another version of Baldur’s story, Frigg, goddess of love, named mistletoe a symbol of love after her son was able to be resurrected. She then offers to give a kiss to any who passes underneath the mistletoe, it said on History.com.
USA Today said mistletoe is known to have been a symbol of fertility since 1 A.D. According to History.com, mistletoe continued to be associated with fertility and vitality through the Middle Ages. A move to the modern tradition of hanging mistletoe with holiday decorations began in 18th century England.
Kissing balls, popular in the 1700s, were made of boxwood, holly, and mistletoe. They were hung in doorways and in windows, and according to the Farmer’s Almanac could determine whether a young woman would be married in the following year.
“A young lady caught under the mistletoe could not refuse to give a kiss. This was supposed to increase her chances of marriage since a girl who wasn’t kissed could still be single next Christmas. According to ancient custom, after each kiss, one berry is removed until they are all gone,” said Farmer’s Almanac.
Mistletoe and its berries should not be eaten. More than likely they won’t cause serious harm, according to Poison Control. Although used to cure ailments in ancient Greece, mistletoe leaves and berries can cause an upset stomach when small amounts are eaten. American mistletoe is considered less toxic than European mistletoe.
Maybe it’s fair that mistletoe has been frowned upon and looked at closer by the #MeToo movement and perhaps the tradition should be kept out of workplaces and businesses to avoid uncomfortable confrontations. Even so, the tradition is likely to continue in homes as people playfully pucker up, so long as both parties agree and don’t eat the berries.