How old do you think the tradition of kissing beneath the mistletoe is? Does anyone really know? There’s a lot that has been said about the tradition, but one thing remains the same, you can expect to see mistletoe hung from archways and doorways throughout the month of December. Here’s a few theories about the origin of this yuletide tradition.
Norse Mythology and Mistletoe
Likely one of the oldest references to the plant in mythology is in Norse mythology. The story starts with Frigg, the mother of the god Baldur. Frigg blesses Baldur so that he can’t be killed by a weapon made from a plant grown on earth. This doesn’t stop Loki, the god of mischief from making a spear out of mistletoe and killing Baldur with it. Since mistletoe grows in the branches of other trees instead of out of the ground, it worked. The trouble with this story is it has nothing to do with kissing, so it likely isn’t related.
Greek Mythology and Mistletoe
According to Greek mythology, mistletoe was carried by Aeneas as he traveled into the underworld to protect him from its dangers and help him get back at the end of his journey. Again, this may have little to do with the modern tradition, until you learn that mistletoe was also seen as a fertility symbol among the Greeks.
English Mistletoe Tradition
As far back as the 1780s, writers in England began to write about the tradition much more as we know it today, where two people standing under mistletoe are obligated by the tradition to kiss each other. Still, the origin of the tradition is not written about, we just have records of it being an element of the culture over 200 years ago.
American Mistletoe Tradition
Carried to the new world by English settlers, the same tradition passed on into the United States. The practice can be seen in movies, television shows, and referenced all over popular culture. Literature records the tradition as far back as near the foundation of the country.