Culture & Technology

Mistletoe: The Evolution of a favorite Christmas Tradition


If you have watched movies like “The Mistletoe Promise”, you may wonder why humans tend to kiss under a bouquet. How come that a parasitic plant seems to remind us of romance?


pretty mistletoe bouquets hanging outdoors


In this article, we want to explore together some of the mistletoe stories about the evolution of this Christmas tradition.



Before we delve deeper into the world of the traditions related to it, let us clarify what the name actually means. Mistletoes depend on other plants for survival. It is interesting to know that these parasitic plants have developed the ability to grow on the branches of trees.



mistletoe cloes up branches leaves and small white fuits


Mistletoe berries are toxic to humans, but birds can eat them. After a bird eats the fruit, it usually cleans and wipes the sticky coating against a nearby tree. This is how the mistletoe ends up invading and stealing water, as well as nutrients from trees. Therefore the scientific name of the plant (Phoradendron) means “thief of the tree” in Greek.


mistletoe branches and pine branches close up green christmas bouquet



Mistletoe is the only part of any tree that can remain green throughout the whole year. This explains why a lot of people believe that this plant boosts fertility and increases life.


greetings cards vintage christmas card with mistletoe drawing


Other core symbolic mistletoe meanings include power, peace, healing, femininity, protection, immortality, unification and magic.


mistletoe stories paintining of a couple kissing under the mistletoe



If we want to trace the origins of the mistletoe tradition, we need to get familiar with ancient Norse mythology. According to a legend, Baldur, grandson of the god Thor, was killed by an arrow that was made of mistletoe.

kissing under the mistletoe vinatge card on a couple under the mistletoe


When Baldur woke up that same morning, he knew that every living thing wanted to kill him. To console him, his wife and mother asked every animal and plant to leave him in peace. However, they forgot to beg the kindness of the mistletoe.


decorating with mistletoe at home woman handing an ornament on the window


Nevertheless, in some versions of the story Baldur’s mother managed to bring him back to life. As she was weeping tears onto the arrow, these tears transformed into white berries that healed the wound. The mother was so happy and grateful that she blessed the plant. She also promised a kiss to anyone who would pass beneath the mistletoe.


blooming mistletoe bouquet outdoor decoration



Future Christmas traditions certainly originated from happier versions of that story. At the same time, they have also evolved over time. For instance, today we believe that couples who get caught standing underneath the mistletoe plant should prepare to kiss. However, in ancient times it was actually common to kiss the hand of your host under the mistletoe upon arrival.


small misletoe wreath hanging on a wooden door with a red ribbon


It is not a coincidence that the plots of songs like “Mistletoe and Holly” and films like “Moonlight and Mistletoe” revolve around mistletoe stories. Yet, this popular plant is not just about Christmas decorations or kisses. As you can see, there is much more to its meanings than meets the eye. The green branches are actually a beautiful reminder that hope, friendship, love and renewal are often closer than we think.


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