‘Tis the Season… to Learn More About Mistletoe!

MerryChristmasMistletoeIn the spirit of Christmas, I wanted to take this opportunity to declare something a bit embarrassing about myself, something that my boyfriend recently brought to my attention:  I honestly don’t know what mistletoe is.

Patrick and I were at Home Depot gathering some supplies for our holiday decorations and I saw a beautiful ball of greenery decorated with red ribbon and berries.  “Ooh!” I shouted. “Mistletoe!  I want this!”

But I heard him laughing at me before I was even able to remove the plant from the hanger and put it in my basket.  With a very matter-of-fact attitude, he told me that the item of my eye wasn’t mistletoe, and then proceeded to ask me the serious question: “Do you know even what mistletoe is?”  I think I sputtered something about it’s a plant.  “Right…,” he said, waiting for more of my explanation.  “And it has berries?” I guessed.

But before he could answer or I could talk my way out of the situation, I accepted defeat and realized I probably couldn’t differentiate a mistletoe plant from another plant if my life depended on it.

So guess what?  I did a little research, Patrick bought me some mistletoe (as seen above), and now I want to share some of the interesting facts I learned along the way:

  • Mistletoe can be recognized by its smooth-edged oval evergreen leaves. (Jackpot!)
  • The berries on mistletoe are not red, but white.  They usually appear in dense clusters ranging from two to ten, depending on the species. It is the red berries of Holly that often get confused with mistletoe.
  • Mistletoe is actually considered a parasite!  The mistletoe attaches itself and penetrates high up on the branches of trees and absorbs water and nutrients from the host.  It can stunt the tree’s growth and even kill it due to the heavy infestation.
  • If ingested, the plant will cause acute gastrointestinal problems including stomach pain, diarrhea, and a low pulse.  (What is romantic about this plant again? haha)
  • According to Smithsonian.com, the act of kissing under a mistletoe can be attributed to a Norse legend, where the God Baldur feared that everything was trying to kill him.  His mother, the goddess Frigga, then begged every living thing to spare her son’s life.  It is said that she failed to ask  or notice the mistletoe.  Low and behold, Baldur was ultimately killed with an arrow made of mistletoe, and we hang it over our heads to be reminded to never to forget it again.
  • Other legends say that the mistletoe is magic so we hang it above our doors for luck.  Another legend says it is a symbol of fertility, since the seeds of mistletoe are sticky like, well, let’s just say, a male fluid.
  • Technically, mistletoe etiquette calls for a berry to be removed when he kisses a woman underneath the plant.  When all the berries are gone, there’s no more kissing permitted underneath that plant.

So now that we have some more knowledge about mistletoe under our belts, it’s time to get ready for the most wonderful time of the year!  With less than two weeks until Christmas, I think I pretty much have my gifts in order and I am trying not to forget anyone.  How’s your shopping going?  If I don’t post until then, I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and I hope your holiday season is filled with joy and love, and that maybe you even find yourself stealing a kiss under a mistletoe.  🙂