All About Mistletoe: A Fun Holiday Tradition

We’ve all heard of this holiday plant, but how much do you really know about mistletoe? The delicate beauty, which is known for decorating doorways during the holidays to promote love and affection to all, is actually a parasitic plant. Yes, mistletoe grows by attaching itself to deciduous trees (those who drop their leaves in winter), such as maples and pecans.

All About Mistletoe

Learn all about mistletoe. How it grows and the history of the well known traditions of hanging some in the entrance of your home.

They absorb the water and nutrients from the host plant, and their evergreen leaves provide some nutrients through photosynthesis. They are spread by birds that eat the pretty white berries, which are sticky, and they spit out the seeds or pass them as waste, which sticks to branches and starts a new plant. The picture below shows what mistletoe looks like living in a tree.

mistletoe in tree

Mistletoe was highly regarded by the Druids. They believed that it protected you from evil, and so they hung it in doorways. Its fresh evergreen leaves were considered a symbol of fertility.

The “kissing legend” has many histories. One of the most common tells of the Norse god Balder, who was killed with an arrow made from the wood of mistletoe. Blader’s mother, Frigga, the goddess of love, cried for the loss of her son. Her tears turned the red berries of the mistletoe to white, and Balder miraculously came back to life. From then on, she blessed the plant and promised a kiss for all of those who walked beneath it.

Mistletoe Party

This work (Christmas Eve at Mr Wardle’s, by Hablot Knight Browne)

One other interesting tidbit about “kissing under the mistletoe” is that there was once a convention for the tradition. The proper etiquette was for the man to pick a berry once he kissed a lady under the mistletoe. Once all of the berries were gone, the kissing was over.

Looking for fresh mistletoe to hang in your house this year? You might find some at your local florist or big box store. If not, here are a couple of online sources:
Real Mistletoe


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About Patti Estep

Patti is the creator of Hearth and Vine, a home and garden blog filled with projects to inspire your creative side. She loves crafting, gardening, decorating and entertaining at her home in Pennsylvania. When she is not working on a project at home or searching for treasures at nurseries and thrift stores with her girlfriends, you’ll probably find her with family and friends, at a restaurant, or home party enjoying new and different food adventures.

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  1. Always wondered where the tradition started. We can’t grow it here in Canada as it’s too cold. But I loved to see it when I was in England a few years ago – interesting how it grows. It’s really just a weed, isn’t it?

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