The history of mistletoe


Christmas is a time of tradition, including decorating Christmas trees, making Gingerbread Houses, and hanging mistletoe.  However, the mistletoe plant has not always had a holiday season connection.  Its purpose evolved with different countries adopting it for their respective traditions.  As it passed on through cultures, it acquired various functions and meanings.

A drawing depicting the Norse myth of Frigga and her son Baldur. Courtesy of

The origins of the mistletoe come from Greece, England, Norway, and Scandinavia, and have made their way to America, becoming a famous Christmas decoration, according to  
For thousands of years, the plant has been a symbol of love and healing, according to history.comThe healing properties of the mistletoe plant fascinated the ancient Europeans.  As a result of its connotation with love, mistletoe became part of many legends, including one that originated in Norway.  It discussed the relationship between a mother and her son, both of whom were gods, according to
The woman’s son, Baldur, believed that all nature and animals were going to kill him.  The mother, Frigga, made sure that all of the plants would not harm her son, but she forgot about the mistletoe plant.  In the story, he died because of the mistletoe plant.  After she found a way to resurrect Baldur, the mother decided to make the mistletoe a symbol of love, peace, and happiness, according to
There are many different species of the mistletoe plant around the world. Courtesy of

Today, mistletoe is still a Christmas decoration that symbolizes love.  The modern ritual involves a couple kissing beneath the leaves and berries of the mistletoe plant, or they will be cursed with bad luck.  Each time a couple kisses beneath the mistletoe, they need to remove a berry from the plant until there are none left, according to
Many acknowledge Mr. Washington Irving, a well-known historical author, for bringing Christmas traditions to America through his short stories, according to Some famous books by Mr. Irving include The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle.  In his short story “Christmas Eve” in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, he discusses the tradition of mistletoe.
“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,” Mr. Irving wrote in the short story “Christmas Eve.”  “When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.”
– Lé-Anne Johnson, Staff Writer
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