Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Christmas in July: Mistletoe

A Regency Christmas story wouldn't be complete without the hero and heroine celebrating their love with a kiss under the mistletoe. Long a symbol of fertility, mistletoe, with its glossy green leaves and white berries, has become a Christmas symbol of love and marriage.

Mistletoe is an evergreen, a spot of life in the brown, dormant landscape of a northern winter. At this low point of the year, Regency people decorated their houses with mistletoe, along with other seasonal greens such as Christmas rose (Hellebore), evergreen boughs, holly, ivy, hawthorn, laurel, rosemary, and bay, as a reminder that spring would return.

In England, mistletoe, which is a parasite, grows most often on apple trees, but also on blackthorn, hawthorn, lime, poplar, rowan and willow. Although its range extends from Devon to Yorkshire, the plant grows mainly to the south and west, and is particularly abundant around London.

Some of the myths surrounding mistletoe originated with the Druids, who deemed the plant a sexual symbol--the juice from the white berries resembles semen--and, by extension, an aphrodisiac. As part of their winter solstice ceremonies, they cut mistletoe from oak trees, providing a link to the later holiday of Christmas.

The origin of kissing under the mistletoe may derive from the Norse legend of the death of the sun god, Balder, killed by a sprig of mistletoe hurled by his enemy Loki. When Balder's mother, Frigga, the goddess of love, cried over her son, her tears resurrected him. In gratitude, she kissed everyone who came under the mistletoe.

A lesser known legend declares mistletoe the plant of peace. Enemies meeting under the mistletoe had to embrace and declare a truce until the next day. This goodwill and embrace may also be the source of the kiss under the mistletoe.

Regency people used mistletoe in the form of a kissing bough--a simple arrangement of mistletoe decorated with ribbons and hung over a doorway or entrance. The gentleman would kiss his lady and then pluck a white berry and present it to her, perhaps as a symbol of the child he could give her. When all the berries were gone, that sprig of mistletoe could no longer be used to steal kisses, although many people disregarded the berries' absence.

My Regency Christmas novella, Mistletoe Everywhere, incorporates the myth of enemies. In this case, the estranged hero and heroine declare a truce under the mistletoe--mistletoe that only the hero can see. Short blurb: A man who sees mistletoe everywhere is mad--or in love. Buy link here. More info at my website,

Merry Christmas in July to all.

Thank you all,
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!


Sharon Sullivan-Craver said...

Loved the blog. and I read an ecerpt on the book "Mistletoe Everywhere' it looks very interesting. I'm going to have to get it for my winter reading. Thank you for inviting me in.

Savanna Kougar said...

Linda, luv your premise for MISTLETOE EVERYWHERE!

You do the best research on topics, and present the info beautifully. Thank you.

I will have to say, I bet those Druids knew something the current culture refuses to know.

Carol Ann said...

Wow! I loved learning the history of mistletoe. And also how it grows. What fun to be talking about mistletoe in July! Good luck with your book. The title and tagline sound great!

Bekki Lynn said...

How fabulous, Linda. I had no idea about the white berries or about the reminders about spring.

Thanks for enlightening us.

Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Sharon. And I hope you like MISTLETOE EVERYWHERE.

Thank you so much, Savanna. I appreciate it. And I think you're right about the Druids. *g*

And thank you, too, Carol Ann. When we're all sweltering in 90 degree heat, it's nice to think of Christmas.

Thanks, Bekki. I had no idea of everything mistletoe means besides kissing until I looked it up.

Mimi Barbour said...

You have a lovely cover and the story sounds fascinating. I love Mistletoe!!

Kathleen O said...

Linda, this was so fasinating to learn about Mistletoe... and your book cover looks great.

Mmmm never knew that part about the Druids take on Mistletoe...interesting...

Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Mimi. I like mistletoe, too!

Hi Kathleen. Lots of legends about mistletoe out there. Who ever knew? *g*

Lindsay Townsend said...

I love all these amazing facts about mistletoe, Linda.

I read your MISTLETOE EVERYWHERE in a single sitting when I was out of sorts and unable to sleep. Your delightful story of love reunited transported me away.

It's now one of my favourite reads, along with Savann's WHEN A GOOD ANGEL FALLS (another perfect read for getting into the Xmas spirit.)

Savanna Kougar said...

Ah, thanks, Lindsay!

Linda Banche said...

Thank you, too, Lindsay.