Kiss Me Quick | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 05.12.2001
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Kiss Me Quick

"I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus, underneath the mistletoe last night...". Have you ever wondered why people kiss under a such an unusual plant?


The mistletoe is anything but kissable in the plant world

Phoradendron flavescens or Viscum album is a parasitic plant that grows on trees, preferably oak and apple trees. Phoradendron flavescens is better known as mistletoe, a name which dates back to the Anglo-Saxon word "misteltan". "Mistel" is the old English word for dung, and "tan" the word for "twig". Hence, "Misteltan", or today's mistletoe is literally named after the way the plant spreads its seed – by bird droppings. People used to believe that the mistletoe plant with its little white berries grew as a result of birds landing in the branches of trees.

There are various ancient beliefs connected to the plant. Vikings in the eighth century believed that mistletoe had the power to raise humans from the dead and linked it to the resurrection of Balder, the god of the summer sun.

In the first century, Druids on the English isle believed that mistletoe could perform miracles, making humans fertile, healing animal diseases and protecting people from witchcraft.

Mistletoe is also said to be a sexual symbol, because of the consistency and color of the berry juice. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is said to come from the ancient belief that mistletoe was related to fertility .

The correct mistletoe etiquette is for the man to remove one berry when he kisses a woman. When all the berries are gone, there is no more kissing underneath the mistletoe branch. And it is said that an unmarried woman not kissed under the mistletoe will remain single for another year.

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