The ugly truth behind the mistletoe

By  | 
Getting close under the mistletoe (Photo by Zeusandhera via Flickr).

Getting close under the mistletoe (Photo by Zeusandhera via Flickr).

During the holidays love enters many homes, bringing families together and creating picturesque memories. The one decoration synonymous with love during this season is mistletoe. It hangs in the doorways of many homes throughout our beautiful county just waiting for two lovers to pass underneath. It has been a symbol of love, holiday spirit, luck, and tradition for many years.

There are several stories that are connected with the origin of the mistletoe, but scientific fact proves it may not be as heart-warming as it’s cracked up to be. When looking closer at what the mistletoe is all about, the truth is that mistletoe is a mean little plant.

Mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant that grows in the branches of many different trees including oak, maple, walnut, and apple trees. The mistletoe plant can be either female (with berries, similar to what is hung at Christmas time) or male (producing only pollen). The berries on female plants are like evil little henchmen because the seeds from them are what actually attack the tree. Often times the berries are eaten by birds that digest them, leaving little white “presents” on the tree. From here the seeds grow creating veins that make their way through the tree branches sucking up all the water and nutrients available until there is nothing left, and in many cases, resulting in the death of the tree.

Who would have thought a destructive little plant could bring so much love during the holiday season?

With many different origins and stories about the significance of mistletoe, a popular story deals with the Goddess Frigga (Goddess of love) and her son Balder (God of the summer sun). The story goes that Balder dreamt he would die and all life on earth would cease as well. This dream alarmed Frigga and sent her on a mission to ensure her son would live. She quickly went to all the elements, animals and plants on earth to receive a promise that her son would not be harmed. However, Balder’s biggest enemy Loki (God of evil) learned of one plant Frigga overlooked; the mistletoe.

Mistletoe bliss (Photo by sneakerdog via Flickr).

Mistletoe bliss (Photo by sneakerdog via Flickr).

To make a long story short, Loki tries to kill Balder with a mistletoe-tipped arrow (silly, I know), kills him, but the tears of his mother bring him back to life, which in turn makes her want to create love around the mistletoe instead of death, and she decreed anyone standing under the mistletoe would not be harmed but rather given a token of love, a kiss.

How’s that for a cheery little plant of love?

So the next time you stand kissing below the mistletoe, remember to be thankful for its existence. If it wasn’t a parasitic plant, then it probably wouldn’t be cut off of trees, sold to stores and sold to you. Along with a twisted legend behind its definition of love, it probably wouldn’t be here today allowing you to get your smooch on.

So thank you mistletoe. You twisted little parasitic plant of love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *