Mistletoe makes its annual appearance each December as millions of Americans and Europeans hang a sprig of it in their doorways during the holiday season. According to custom, if a woman is caught standing under the mistletoe, a man may kiss her.
So what is it about this little plant that gives it its power to make people pucker up?
As the legend goes, Balder was killed by an evil spirit with an arrow made of mistletoe. Saddened by her son's death, Frigga wept tears of white berries, which brought Balder back to life. Frigga was so overjoyed that she blessed the plant and promised a kiss to all who passed beneath it.
Mistletoe can only grow if its seeds are carried to a “host" tree by birds that have eaten mistletoe berries. Typically, a bird will squeeze a mistletoe berry in its beak, squishing out a sticky, coated seed.
More fun facts about mistletoe:
- Birds can eat mistletoe berries, but they're highly toxic to humans.
- Approximately 20 species of mistletoe can be found on the endangered species list.
- Celtic druids believed that mistletoe contained the spirit of the tree in which it grew; this was the only part of the tree that stayed green all winter.