What the Heck is Mistletoe? And Why Do People Kiss Under it?


CULLMAN – “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus, underneath the mistletoe last night…” Mistletoe – what the heck is it and why on Earth do people smooch each other while standing underneath it? Movies show young couples embraced in a long kiss while a clump of mistletoe dangles not far above their heads. Young girls can be seen chasing the boys all over the place with mistletoe in hand ready for love. Why do people get so silly over this green-leafed plant and its small white berries?

Mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant. It’s an evergreen and grows on the branches of trees and forms pendent-like bushes 2 to 5 feet in diameter. Mistletoe is usually spread on trees through bird droppings and attaches itself to the tree (the host) and grows out from the tree’s branches. Mistletoe can be found in willow trees and apple trees, but the imitation stuff can be found at your local craft store such as Hobby Lobby or Michael’s.

The word mistletoe actually comes from two Anglo Saxon words. The first word is 'mistel', which means dung, and 'tan', which means twig or stick. So if you want to be all technical, you could translate Mistletoe as… well… nevermind. Yuck! Still want to kiss under it now?

The tradition of hanging mistletoe indoors goes all the way back to the ancient Druids. They considered the plant to possess mystical powers, which brought good luck to the household. It was also believed to ward off evil spirits.

The actual custom of kissing under mistletoe came from England. Unlike today’s practice, the original custom was similar, yet very different. In the beginning, a berry must be picked from the batch of mistletoe before a person could be kissed. Lots of berries meant lots of kisses, but when all the berries had gone, that was it – no more kissing!

Whether you use a sprig of mistletoe to steal a kiss this Christmas time or not, please keep in mind that the plant is very poisonous, especially for pets. Kiss responsibly and be careful with your mistletoe. Keep it out of reach of children and animals. You may also want to keep it away from the weirdo at work as well. Merry Christmas, and we wish you lots of love in the year to come!