The History of the Mistletoe and Its Effects on Your Love Life
When you really think about it, a lot of our holiday traditions are pretty bizarre. We grow up believing that a large man in a red suit delivers gifts to children all over the world in just one night (pulled by a sleigh of flying reindeer). Then there’s the “Elf on the Shelf,” a character who keeps us in line as kids, mysteriously shifting positions and places overnight. And let’s not forget the whole kissing under that weird looking shrub folks hang in doorways.
As an adult, that last tradition is probably of most interest to you. Everyone knows that if two people get caught under the mistletoe at the same time, they’re supposed to kiss — but why is that? If you do just so happen to find yourself under the mistletoe with someone you like, how are you supposed to approach this whole kissing a stranger business, anyway?
Here’s a look at why we kiss under the mistletoe, and a few pointers for pulling off a romantic holiday kiss this year.
The History of the Mistletoe
Mistletoe, as it turns out, is actually a parasitic plant that’s dependent on its host. “Mistletoe grows predominantly on oaks and apple trees, which lose their leaves in the winter,” explains Cerridwen Fallingstar, author and shamanic teacher. “Recognizing this similarity, our ancestors thought the mistletoe was like the ‘child’ of the tree.”
In both Celtic and Nordic pagan traditions, the mistletoe was viewed as a sign of fertility. “Since mistletoe stays green, it was thought to keep the ‘soul,’ the life-force of the tree until spring returned,” adds Fallingstar. “All of the evergreens are featured in Winter Solstice celebrations since they promise rebirth. To kiss under a symbol of fertility and eternal life was naturally thought to bring good luck.”
According to relationship expert and life coach Orion Talmay, mistletoe was also used in herbal remedies, acting as a “valuable herb prized for its purported healing qualities.”
“During the first century AD, the Celtic Druids found that it bloomed even during the coldest winters,” she says. “As a result, mistletoe was equated with strength and virility, and it was used by humans as a fertility elixir.”
How to Land the Perfect Kiss Under the Mistletoe
Today, kissing under the mistletoe is often seen as cheesy, but according to Talmay, it can actually spark some romance in your relationship — if you go about it the right way, that is.
“While an element of surprise makes kissing under the mistletoe romantic, only try this with your partner or someone you’re confident will consent and reciprocate,” she says. “Pressuring someone into a kiss with mistletoe just comes across as creepy.”
Tips for Using the Mistletoe to Your Advantage this Holiday Season
Make Sure It’s Somewhere Strategic
Instead of placing the mistletoe somewhere that you’ll have to wait for your partner to find, Talmay suggests hanging it up front and center.
“Hang some mistletoe above your front door and wait for your partner to return home,” she says. “Surprising them with a mistletoe kiss is the perfect antidote to a hard day at work, and it keeps things romantic and fresh.”
Keep ‘Em Moving
If the mistletoe is at a holiday party, lead your love interest there without them realizing in order to capitalize on the element of surprise.
“You might ask her to join you for some fresh air outside, a journey to the kitchen, or to explore a new area … any of which can lead you towards your mistletoe path,” says dating coach Mario Singelmann. “Conveniently stop moving in the middle of a conversation when you’re under the mistletoe. Their mind will not (immediately) be on their surroundings, providing the element of surprise.”
Acknowledge the Mistletoe
Just because you’re aware of the mistletoe doesn’t mean your partner knows that’s where you’re standing. Basically, just make sure you give a nod to it before going in for a kiss.
“Don’t assume they’re aware of the mistletoe, or even the tradition,” says Singlemann. “Be sure to point it out, and express, ‘You know tradition says we’re supposed to kiss if we’re under a mistletoe…'”
Know Your Approach
Depending on what you think your partner would like most, there are a few ways of bringing up the mistletoe once you’re under it.
“Try something cheeky like ‘I’m afraid you have to kiss me now,’ with a big grin,” says psychologist and dating coach Madeleine Roantree Mason. “Or, ask to come and stand ‘over here’ (which happens to be under the mistletoe) and say, ‘I knew it! You want to kiss me.’”
You could also go the more romantic route, too: “Take her hand, walk her to under the mistletoe and ask, “I have been wanting to kiss you all evening, do you think I’d be allowed to if we stand under the mistletoe?’” adds Mason.
Don’t Be a Mistletoe Hog
If you’re having your romantic mistletoe moment at a holiday party, make sure you move on in a timely manner once you’ve accomplished your mission.
“Don’t hang out under the mistletoe,” says Singlemann. “That’s creepy.”
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