by Ben B.Boothe, Sr. –
Circa 1890: A sailor tries to kiss a young woman under a sprig of mistletoe. (William Small. Hulton Archive/Getty Images By KAT MOON).
From Harry Potter’s first kiss to Justin Bieber’s holiday tune, kissing under the mistletoe is everywhere in pop culture. But this Christmas tradition — that if you’re standing under the leafy plant, it’s time for a smooch — existed long before it ever appeared in movies and pop songs.
While historians are uncertain about why kissing under the mistletoe started, there is a general consensus regarding when and where the custom began, and how it became popular during Christmas time.
The origins of kissing under the mistletoe, a plant that often bears white berries, are often traced to a tale in Norse mythology about the god Baldur. In the story, Baldur’s mother, Frigg, casts a powerful magic to make sure that no plant grown on earth could be used as a weapon against her son. The one plant the spell does not reach is the mistletoe, as it does not grow out of the earth, but out of a tree’s branches. The scheming Loki, upon learning this, makes a spear out of mistletoe — the spear that would eventually kill Baldur.
Baldur was warlike and a favored son of Gods, and so when people saw mistletoe they would kiss in joy that he was dead! Thus the tradition is a celebration of the end of a warlike man who enjoyed and died by violence.
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