December 6 2019
Kiss me sweetheart! A brief history of mistletoe.
Written by Gastown Admin
Where would we be without tradition?
With the holiday season in full swing, and Christmas only 19 days away, the familiar is how we connect to the past, and simultaneously experience the present during this very special time of year.
Strings of white and coloured bulbs, pretty bows, gifts wrapped with care, the smell of cloves, pine & a crackling yule log, Christmas trees, the carols and jingles, and in particular, mistletoe.
The use of fresh garland adorning buildings and houses is more common in Europe, with wreaths serving as the arrangement of choice on many front doors in North America. The hanging of mistletoe swags, shared by both continents, offers us a chance to publicly express the single most powerful display of consensual love and affection: a kiss.
A brief history of mistletoe.
The name mistletoe comes from two Anglo Saxon words ‘Mistel’ (which means dung) and ‘tan’ (which means) twig or stick.
Traditionally, mistletoe appears in the white berry variety and can be found growing on various trees including willow, apple, and oak. It is far rarer to find white berries, so here we are satisfied using holly with its classic Christmas red berries.
The tradition of hanging it in the house goes back to the times of the ancient Druids. By suspending an abundant swag of the stuff, it was believed to be highly effective in warding off evil spirits, and with its inherent magical powers, mistletoe could bring good luck to the household.
The custom of kissing under mistletoe originates from England. The custom was that a berry was picked from the sprig of mistletoe before the person could be kissed, and when all the berries had gone, so too did all smooching opportunities.
In Victorian England, kissing under the mistletoe was not to be taken lightly. If a lady refused a kiss, like the cut branches of mistletoe, all marriage proposals for the coming year would dry up and fade away, and many people would snub their noses at her, agreeing that such a person would certainly end up an old maid.
Nowadays, it’s all pretty chill as far as etiquette goes. Just remember that our beautiful and magical swags of mistletoe in Gastown (there are 10 such lovely arrangements throughout the neighbourhood) will soon disappear. Grab your loved one today and plant a big juicy kiss on their face and share it using the tag #kissmeingastown.