This Is Why We Kiss Under the Mistletoe

Stealing a kiss under the mistletoe wasn't always strictly a Christmas tradition.

There are plenty of wonderful Christmas traditions that people enjoy following every year. One that tends to be more of a hit or miss, however, is hanging mistletoe. Some people just can’t find the plant in the store, or they’d rather spare others the embarrassment of forced kissing. Eating sugar cookies and drinking eggnog sounds more fun than smooching in front of your grandma.

Still, kissing underneath the mistletoe is a classic tradition. With or without the holiday context, it seems like an odd superstition to kiss someone under a plant. Although mistletoe closely ties with Christmas, it stems from both Norse mythology as well as Greek and Roman medicine. The Greeks used mistletoe to cure everything from cramps to spleen issues, while the Romans turned the plant into a balm for ulcers, according to History.com. Since this healing plant blossoms even in the cold winter, Celtic Druids thought it restored fertility, too. On the mythology side, legend says the gods used mistletoe to resurrect Odin’s son Baldur from the dead. And Baldur’s mother, the goddess of love, vowed to kiss whoever passed the plant, a symbol of love.

Ties with fertility and love stuck with the plant through the 18th century and were easily incorporated into Christmas celebrations. It reportedly started with lower-class servants in England before moving up to the middle classes, according to TODAY. Add that to your knowledge of fun holiday facts. Plus, some people think the sticky seeds that cling to the plant are symbolic of a kiss.

Versions of the tradition have changed throughout the years, too. One version says couples who kiss should also take a berry from the mistletoe with each kiss, and another says that refusing a kiss under the mistletoe is bad luck. If you believe in superstitions like that, you need to know the surprising things you didn’t know were considered bad luck.

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Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.