Dare you to Kiss under the Mistletoe Now… by Jessie Smith
With the holidays upon us, most people worry about putting up decorations, racking up gift debt, whether to send out cards to 3rd cousins twice removed and people you haven’t seen since the time you pinky swore you would stay friends forever but mostly it’s time to get into the mentality of the holiday spirit. We have to accept that it’s December. It might be dark and cold outside but our hearts have to grow three times its size for fear of the Grinch label. Despite having a difficult year, social norms dictates that you inhale the eggnog and not to think about the calories until January’s New Year’s Resolutions.
I didn’t always have to flip a switch to get into the holiday mood. As a child, a December trip to Grandma’s house was like sending children to the North Pole. Her house smelt like cinnamon, my father would have to lift me up to place an ornament near the top of the huge pine tree, cousins would feud over which cookies to make Santa for the most presents and attempts to sneak glances at Christmas gifts turned twelve-year-old girls into silent ninjas.
There was only aspect of Christmas that eluded the children in the house. The item that dangled from a doorway. The sacred object that would make Uncles stop suddenly and Aunts giggle as they exchanged kisses. All my childhood, the mistletoe taunted me. Too young to participate with a loved one and yet not young enough to be unaware that I was missing out on something cool. And there wasn’t just one bundle of Mistletoe in the house. No, she must have made a bulk purchase as they were in hanging from every doorway, always causing people traffic jams.
As I entered early adulthood, Grandma was no longer with us and the holidays weren’t the same. Yet, she left a lasting impression that some berries with leaves, hanging above a door frame was the ultimate symbol of holiday romance. Mix that in with my quest to be romance writer and mistletoe holds a piece of my heart and it has been the key to warming up my holiday spirit.
I swear, it’s not just me. Mistletoe has always been connected with the holidays but it has evolved from just inspecting a door frame before you could pass it safely. I’m fond of the Victoria era’s take on its purpose, where “kissing balls” had limited usage but that served to a couple’s advantage. A gentleman was allowed to give a kiss, in exchange for one of the berries. When all the berries were gone, so was the woman’s good time. In my mind, a woman could rip off the berries if a troll approached her seeking a kiss. On the other hand, her secret crush could forget to take a berry, allowing them another opportunity later on. This version was much more appealing that being caught under a mistletoe with someone who kept her walking pace or got caught next to her on the way to the bathroom.
In doing research for holiday story, I stumbled upon the reason why people connected the object with kissing and now why people think they were so silly. Before today, I only knew that mistletoe was connected to the belief it would increase your fertility chances. But do you want to know the secret creation of mistletoe? Ready? Last chance to keep your romantic views intact and oblivious. Since you are still reading, you have decided to take the blue pill.
Mistletoe reproduces itself through bird shit.
There is absolutely nothing romantic about it. People connected mistletoe to fertility because it existed without growth from plant roots. To our ancestors, it magically came into existence and they wanted to gleam that energy towards a woman’s uterus. Now we know that this magic is birds eating berries, going to the bathroom on branches, the seeds germinating in the bark and viola – mistletoe. (Book Source: The Curious World of Christmas: Celebrating All That Is Weird, Wonderful, and Festive by Niall Edworthy).
Mistletoe is now and forever connected to my culture’s notion of holiday romance and the reality of defecation. I can’t unring that bell. My inner child is grossed out. My adult version is freaking out. I absolutely hate it when harsh reality brings forth new light to a held firm belief.
Do you keep a family tradition when you learn a new truth?
I’m going to force myself to believe that my grandma had no idea, especially since her world didn’t involve quick Google searches. I’m not telling my aunts and uncles, who have carried on her holiday tradition in their households. And I will continue to give low Goodreads ratings to any holiday romance novel that neglects a mistletoe kiss.
However, from this moment on, the mistletoe hanging from my doorway will be made of plastic.