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Christmas Alphabet: M is for Mistletoe

December 9, 2011

M is for Mistletoe, the semi-parasitic growth we see this time of year in the tops of trees now that the leaves have fallen. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it?


How in the world did the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe begin?

Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob apple, and snap dragon; the Yule-clog and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the mistletoe with its white berries hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.
So Washington Irving, in “Christmas Eve,” relates the typical festivities surrounding the Twelve Days of Christmas, including kissing under the mistletoe (Washington Irving, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent). Irving continues his Christmas passage with a footnote:

“The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.”

We moderns have conveniently forgotten the part about plucking the berries (which, incidentally, are poisonous), and then desisting from kissing under the mistletoe when the berries run out!


I tried to find a movie clip which mentions mistletoe, but it’s not anywhere to be found!

Kissing Ball
This is a pretty Kissing Ball with only a tiny sprig of mistletoe at the bottom.

Kissing Ball

There are tons of sites offering directions for making Kissing Balls.
Or you can just hang your mistletoe with a simple ribbon over any doorway in the house as I will.


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