Behind this door of the TRP Advent Calendar, we want to solve the mystery of the mistletoe. Why do we kiss under it? Has it always been like this? What is it about this evergreen plant that decorates homes, especially during the Christmas season?
The mistletoe was not always there just for kissing
If one follows the history of the mistletoe, one finds the original use of the plant in Germanic and Nordic paganism. Mythology describes how Loki had a son of Odin named Balder killed by using a mistletoe. For Balder, these mistletoe were deadly because they were the only form of life that refused to take the oath not to harm the young god. The Celts and also the ancient Greeks saw a symbol of fertility in the white berries of mistletoe. The plant was used in a medicinal way for a long time and is classified as slightly poisonous today.
Baldr is killed by a mistletoe.
Botanically speaking, this plant is a semi-parasite. It extracts nutrients from its host and at the same time carries out photosynthesis. The plant belongs to the evergreen plants and therefore does not get brown leaves even in the winter time. It is therefore often used as a Christmas decoration.
Die Mistel als Glücksbringer – nicht nur in der Liebe
According to tradition, the mistletoe, after being cut off, must not touch the ground until the holidays are over. Some customs say that the branch should remain hanging all year round. It should protect the house from fire and lightning damage until a new branch is hung the following year.
The custom of kissing under the mistletoe dates back to the 16th century in England. According to an old Christmas custom, a man and a woman meeting under a mistletoe were obliged to kiss each other. Afterwards, both were to spend a long and blessed life as a couple. It was not until the 18th century that the plant was increasingly used for general Christmas decoration.
Mistletoe postcard (ca. 1900)
At this point we also wish you a wonderful time before Christmas, with or without the magic of the mistletoe!