By Helen LaceyLaney, please contact Helen on mail (at) helenlacey (dot) com to to collect your prize!
My second Harlequin Special Edition book, Marriage Under The Mistletoe, released this month (Dec in the Aus/NZ) And as you can tell from the title it is a Christmas story. Woven between the romance is an ornately decorated tree, wrapped presents and of course mistletoe. But, since we don’t get mistletoe in Australia, I had to make do with the plastic variety for my hero and heroine to smooch beneath.
So I thought it might be fun to find out exactly where and when the tradition of stealing a kiss beneath this innocuous little plant started from.
Thank you Mr Google and MR Wikipedia - Mistletoe, it seems, had a long and complex history. European mistletoe, figured prominently in Greek Mythology and is there is also believed to be a link to the Romans. And then there’s the link to that old Norse bad boy Loki and various other Norse legends. According to Wikipedia in cultures across pre-Christian Europe, mistletoe was seen as a representation of divine male essence – go figure! And those mighty Celts (perhaps my Welsh ancestors) considered it a remedy for barrenness in animals and an antidote to poison.
Apparently, when Christianity became widespread in Europe after the 3rd century AD, the religious or mystical respect for the mistletoe plant was integrated into the new religion. In some way that is not presently understood, this may have led to the widespread custom of kissing under the mistletoe plant during the Christmas season. The earliest documented case of kissing under the mistletoe dates from 16th century England, a custom that was apparently very popular at that time. (Information courtesy of Wikipedia)
The type of Mistletoe used during Christmas celebrations is of the same type as that believed to be sacred by ancient druids, but, outside northern Europe the plant used is not the same species. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration in North America grows as a parasite on trees in the west as also in those growing in a line down the east from New Jersey to Florida. In Europe, where the custom originates, the 'original' mistletoe, is still used. The European mistletoe is a green shrub with small, yellow flowers and white, sticky berries which are considered poisonous.
According to ancient Christmas custom, a man and a woman who meet under a hanging of mistletoe were obliged to kiss. And what a fabulous custom it is!
Do you have a mistletoe story you’d like to share? Or maybe just a happy Christmas story? To celebrate the release of Marriage Under The Mistletoe I have a copy to give away to one commenter.