Let’s Kiss! … But Why Do We Kiss Beneath Mistletoe?

This time of year is full of feasts, gift-giving, traveling and of course, kissing underneath the mistletoe. But what is so special about the mistletoe and why do we kiss beneath it? That question might become even stronger when you find out that mistletoe is actually a parasite that grows on the branches of trees, stealing their water and nutrients.

There are hundreds of species of mistletoe around the world, but the most popular species used for the holidays is the mistletoe that can be found on the branches of oak trees.

The tradition started in Ancient Greece, where they noticed the sticky quality of the seeds. This stickiness helped the seeds be transported from tree to tree by birds. They believed that these seeds contained regenerative powers and therapeutic properties. Mistletoe was also used in Celtic religious rituals and as a medicine during the Middle Ages. None of these traditions involved kissing beneath the mistletoe but the closeness and respect for the plant was still present.

The kissing portion of the tradition that we still practice today comes from Norse mythology. Baldur, the son of Thor, one day awoke and thought that every plant and animal on Earth wanted to kill him. His wife and mother spoke with him and told him not to worry about all the creatures outside but Baldur would not listen and he stayed inside his room, fearful to go outside.

Baldur’s wife and mother then decided to go outside and speak with every living thing, plant and animal, and plead with them so that they would not hurt Baldur. All the animals and plants agreed that they would not harm Baldur. Baldur was then brought outside by his wife and mother to show him there was nothing to worry about but an arrow had pierced the heart of Baldur at that very moment. The arrow was made from mistletoe, the only living thing that Baldur’s wife and mother forgot.

So today we kiss beneath the mistletoe so it is never again forgotten.

This holiday season, pucker up and proudly kiss your loved ones beneath the mistletoe knowing that it is an act steeped in tradition!


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Duane P. Delaune, D.D.S. earned his dental degree at Louisiana State University School of Dentistry, where he graduated fifth in the class. Delaune Dental began in 1990 with the passion of providing great customer service and exceptional dental care. Dr. Delaune loves the wilderness and often hikes or goes backpacking.

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