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Mistletoe’s Scandalous Scandinavian Origins

As the holidays approach, many of us look for every opportunity to maneuver ourselves under the mistletoe in the hopes of logging a little extra kissing time before the New Year . But while engaged in this noble pursuit, how often do we ponder where the tradition of locking lips under a sparse little plant hanging at parties actually began?

The custom of kissing under the mistletoe originated in ancient Scandinavia. Originally, the mistletoe was a plant of peace – if enemies met by chance beneath it in a forest, they would cast aside their arms and hold a truce until the next day. This tradition, combined with one of the earliest Norse myths, evolved into our current practice of locking lips under the mistletoe.

The myth that started it all is the story of Baldur and his resurrection.

According to About.com’s David Beaulieu:

Baldur’s mother was the Norse goddess, Frigga. When Baldur was born, Frigga made each and every plant, animal and inanimate object promise not to harm Baldur. But Frigga overlooked the mistletoe plant — and the mischievous god of the Norse myths, Loki, took advantage of this oversight. Ever the prankster, Loki tricked one of the other gods into killing Baldur with a spear fashioned from mistletoe.

The demise of Baldur, a vegetation deity in the Norse myths, brought winter into the world, although the gods did eventually restore Baldur to life. After which Frigga pronounced the mistletoe sacred, ordering that from now on it should bring love rather than death into the world. Happily complying with Frigga’s wishes, any two people passing under the plant from now on would celebrate Baldur’s resurrection by kissing under the mistletoe.

So the next time you find yourself making-out beneath a mistletoe, remember to give a silent high-five to Baldur as thanks for your romantic fortune.

photo: Magalie L’Abbé



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