As a child, I remember the mistletoe hanging from ceilings or in doorways in almost every home during the Christmas holidays. I never questioned the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. It was just something everyone did.
Looking into it as and adult, I see that mistletoe is connected to many superstitions.
It seems that the traditions originated with the Druids. They considered it a sacred plant with miraculous powers to cure illnesses, guarantee fertility, serve as an antidote to poisons and even protect against the spells of witchcraft. Whenever enemies met under this sacred plant they had to lay down their arms and observe a truce until the next day. The custom of hanging a ball of mistletoe from the ceiling and exchanging kisses under it as a sign of goodwill came from this.
Since then other cultures have added and adjusted their beliefs about mistletoe to fit the culture and current needs.
- You will have good luck if you kiss under the mistletoe but bad luck will follow you if you avoid it.
- It is bad luck to take the Christmas mistletoe down. It must stay up until the next year and then must be replaced with fresh mistletoe.
- Receive a kiss under the mistletoe to be assured of happiness and long life.
- It is said that unmarried women would steal sprigs of mistletoe from the church decorations and tuck them under their pillows. That night they would dream of their future husbands.
- Burning old mistletoe was used to predict the marriage prospects of an unmarried woman. Steady flames assured her of a happy marital relationship while sputtering flames predicted a foul tempered husband.
- In some cultures, a kiss under the mistletoe was interpreted as a promise to marry.
- In other cultures a man was supposed to present a mistletoe berry for each kiss he desired from a young woman. When berries were finished so was the kissing.
What does this mean to me as a Christian?
People love to create talismans of good luck and predictors of the future. We like to be in control. That's the danger of superstition - when we look to an object to ensure or predict our future, we are forgetting something. We have a Creator who controls the future and holds our lives in His capable and loving hands.
Matthew 6:25-34 tells us to seek the Kingdom of God and not to worry about our future because our Father knows what we need and can provide for us. His plans are far better than anything we can imagine.
Still, Christmas traditions can be fun. At this year's holiday parties, if I happen to find myself under the mistletoe, I'll look around for my husband for a kiss. And during that kiss, I'll be thanking God for giving us the gift of sharing in the love that He provides.
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