So your sweetheart caught you under the mistletoe and rather than thinking about that big Christmas smooch that’s coming your way, you wonder: what exactly is this hemi-parasitic plant above me and how did it get such a romantic reputation?
“Mistletoe from North America [and Europe] is parasitic because it gets water from its host plant,” said Judy Jernstedt, professor of plant science at UC Davis. “It still photosynthesizes, so it’s not that consequential to trees.“
One reason historians believe this romantic tradition comes from a Scandanavian myth: if enemies met in the forest under mistletoe, they were required to put their weapons down and maintain a truce for the day. Just like kissing, right?
Another explanation comes from the story of the Norse god, Balder who was killed by the god of the sky with an arrow made of mistletoe. After being restored to life, Balder’s mother, the goddess of love and beauty, reversed the murderous reputation of the mistletoe, making it a symbol of love instead, requiring all those who pass under it to kiss.
“The romance is probably more of a pagan tradition,” Jernstedt said. “But what’s the harm of continuing something fun like that?”
For some Christmas cheer of your own, mistletoe can be purchased at Silveyville Pumpkin and Christmas Tree Farm, or by climbing up that tree outside and picking some of your own!